Bad News Sells Better Than Good News

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Bad news sells better than good news
David Murray

The good news about bad news is that there is not nearly as much of it as you might think. The bad news about good news is that good news doesn’t tend to sell. Dr. Bradley Wright explains this paradox in Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of our World The media sells negative worldviews. It’s not that reporters, writers, and editors are pessimistic people; rather, they have a strong incentive to tell us about the fearful, scary, and dangerous happenings in our world. The media is a business, and it succeeds by attracting viewers and readers. With hundreds of television channels and even more online news sources, how can they do this? One way is to offer something that is truly frightening. If watching a story can save us from some imminent danger, then maybe we’ll stop channel surfing long enough to watch it. If reading a report can protect us from a health scare, maybe we’ll pick the magazine off the rack. Sensationalism and fear sells this is a fact of life that won’t change anytime soon. Wright proceeds to highlight how this also motivates the media to find bad news even in the good news: If life expectancy decreases, people are dying younger. If it increases, it strains the social security system. An unpreventable disease harms people; a preventable disease means disparities in access to medical treatment. High birthrates cause overcrowding; low birthrates cause school closings and lowered future tax revenues. Many activist and advocacy groups like Greenpeace also have a vested interest in selecting and emphasizing the negative. If the world is not getting worse, who’s going to volunteer or donate to make it better? But in many ways our world is getting better. People living in the middle class in the U.S. live better than 99.4% of all human beings who have ever existed. Americans are healthier and live longer than ever before. Literacy rates are up and crime is down. Family income is up and...
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