On any given day, a television or car radio is tuned into a news channel for a specific period of time. Generally speaking, there is but no doubt that everyone wishes to keep current with national and world events. However, the chances are very likely that if you’re looking for good news, you won’t find it on a news/talk format station. In fact, what most often emerges is news of a crisis unfolding that is more likely to be terrible than pleasant in nature.
It’s permissible to wonder if journalists are focused on reporting bad news stories because they believe listeners are drawn to dark, unfortunate events that are fluid and unfolding with increasingly worsening circumstances. If true, what does this hypothetical pondering say about us as a nation? Are we, in fact, drawn more to stories of violence, corruption and set-backs over stories of peace, optimism and comebacks?
No one will argue that it is completely normal to respond affirmatively to crisis, avoiding danger and seeking flight from impending doom than we would comported in a calmer, peaceful mode of contemplating positive news. If news managers are collectively geared to darker themed stories, is it because audience responses correspond to higher ratings in an emotionally-charged news cycle than one that is less provocative?
Even with the increase in gun violence, President Obama has recently cautioned Americans to maintain a perspective against the notion that our country, if not the world, is coming unhinged. There is but no doubt that bad news maintains a sort of jagged edge. This reality also begs the question as to whether or not most of us would prefer to see a kinder and gentler world, when the constant barrage of headlines every thirty minutes (and more frequently for television news programs) negates this possibility with relentless coverage centered more on tragedy.
I suggest that we have “overdosed” on bad news and tragedies. Recently on my way to meet a friend for lunch, a National Public Radio broadcast began with a feature story on espionage. I reached over and turned my automobile radio off and chose to just soak in the fairly quiet sounds of my ordinary automobile drive.
Actress Betty White was asked last year about the cheerful nature of the sit com “Hot in Cleveland” (the series ended in June 2015 after five seasons). White stated rather pointedly that the cast and crew were certainly aware that there are “dark themes” in the world, and “not everything is ha, ha, ha.” But she also mentioned there will always be a need for balance, and comedy brings that sensibility to life. I agree.
Thinking back on this statement of common sense and sanity, I feel vindicated having made the decision to turn the car radio off. There is a difference between denial and taking a break from so many reports of world carnage. To that end, there is a point where radio listeners at home or in their cars must decide when enough is enough, as I clearly did.