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Spread the (good) news. July 23, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Yesterday, our friend Ben was reporting on the latest vegetable scare, some salmonella-tainted jalapenos that the media are blowing out of all proportion into their usual “We’re all gonna die!!!”-fest. (See the post “Here we go again” for my take on that.) Writing that post and reading the comments on it made our friend Ben think about the sorry state of news reporting, and what I’d like to do about it.

Now, our friend Ben realizes that, to be successful, to get viewer or reader share, newspapers and news programs must be in the entertainment business. The success of USA Today proved that beyond doubt, and changed the face of newspaper publishing, almost certainly for all time. Our friend Ben has no problem with this. What I do have a problem with is the nature of “entertainment” today. A quick scan of popular TV shows and movies tells the story: violence and gore galore. True crime, fictional crime, true surgery (in graphic detail), fictional emergency room and hospital shows, disaster shows, horror shows. It’s blood, guts, and terror, folks. Please tell our friend Ben what’s entertaining about that.

Not being fools, the news shows and newspapers figure that, if that’s what people like to watch for enjoyment, they’d better make themselves competitive. So they do. War! Murder! Abduction! Terror! Robbery! Torture! Fatal multi-vehicle wreck! All brought to us in the most graphic full color to make sure we don’t miss one nightmare-inducing real life detail! Even the weather shows, which you’d think would be harmless, have taken their cue from this, making their bread and butter from natural disasters: wildfires, volcanic eruptions, twisters, hurricanes, floods, hazardous, record-breaking snowstorms.

As a result, “news” has become synonymous with “bad news,” and we’ve been turned into a nation of voyeurs and ambulance-chasers by default, our minds suffused with violence, blood, and crime every time we turn on the TV or radio or pick up a paper to hear the latest news. Frankly, our friend Ben can’t take it. I’ve stopped watching the news and get my updates from the internet or the local paper, where I can pass over the most horrific, graphic coverage. I don’t want to fill my mind with images of gore and violence. It’s just not healthy. And the election year has done this much, at least: It’s focused some media attention on the campaigns, so every single headline has not, for once, been about crime, disaster, or corruption.

What happened to all the good news?! As all of us know who see the kindness, beauty, good deeds, and small triumphs around us every day, it’s still out there. But, as one media-savvy wag said (playing on “No news is good news”), “Good news is no news.” Our friend Ben would like to do something about that.

If I had the financial resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, I would start a little Good News empire. I would have a Good News channel and a Good News paper. Our friend Ben is an optimist. I believe that people like upbeat programming, that they turn to the sports, cooking, gardening, and home-improvement channels to find some relief from the unremitting violence on the other channels. I would like to have programming that emphasizes what people are doing right, from the amazing art, film, and science projects that kids come up with to inventions that are changing the world for the better, acts of selflessness and generosity, places of natural or man-made beauty and wonder.

Would anybody tune in? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. The important thing, as far as our friend Ben is concerned, is to provide a positive alternative in a negative environment. It’s not that our friend Ben thinks that war, corruption, and other serious, sobering topics should be ignored in a kind of plastic, Stepford-Wives environment where everything is rosy. But there are ways to cover these important topics without resorting to sensationalism, and they are not the only things worth reporting. They are just part of our story. We need equal time for the other part, the part that shows human beings at our best.

Sadly, our friend Ben does not have the resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. My Good News empire remains a pipe dream. But I can still share some good news: This is our 200th post on Poor Richard’s Almanac. Today, WordPress stats tell us, we’ll pass 20,000 visits on our blog. We—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—are thrilled to have reached these milestones just six months after launching Poor Richard’s Almanac. We are so grateful to all our readers, for your support, for your comments, for taking the time to see what we have to say. From all of us, thank you!!! And please, feel free to share your own good news with us.



1. CeeCee - July 23, 2008

I think folks watch the TV shows, read the papers, buy the trashy magazines full of bad news because they are able to say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” People are always wanting to step up close to the edge, but not have to go over themselves.
I watch the CSI programs because I’m fascinated with the idea that even the most minute bit of evidence could put the bad guys in jail. I’ll admit, there’s probably not a crime lab in the country that has all the cool gadgets, but one can hope. I try not to focus on the twisted crime in each episode, just the forensics. Jack Klugman (Quincy Jones, MD) had me hooked way back in the 70’s.

I would buy your good news paper. I would encourage others to buy your good news paper. I, like everyone else on the planet, could use some “humanity doesn’t really suck eggs” information. Go Ben and Silence!

Thanks, CeeCee! Interesting theory. I guess I’m one of the ones who’d like to stay well back from the edge, since I can already picture all too vividly what pitching over it would be like!

2. deb - July 23, 2008

This is why I like reading garden blogs. Except for the occasional rant and maybe a sock fight or two, we tend to be upbeat and positive.

Right you are, Deb!

3. techsamaritan - July 23, 2008

My brother started a project a while back: http://www.moralbeauty.com/

Thanks for the link–this is great!

4. techsamaritan - July 23, 2008

Oh, and I am sure he would welcome contributions (stories, not money).

Just thought about the NPR Story Corps project, and thought it fit right into the “good news” category.

Thanks, TS! Don’t suppose he’d be willing to send *me* any money?! Just checking.

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