gloucester2gaza, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
 

Bad News, Good News

Posted June 17, 2024
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According to a recent study by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute, people are turning away from the news in droves.

39% of the 100,000 people surveyed said they rarely, if ever, watch, read or listen to the news. Seven years ago, it was 27%, a rather radical and disturbing jump in what we might call willful news ignorance.

In the UK, interest in news has halved since 2015.

With elections coming up this year in the US and the UK (along with many other places), this is a particularly dangerous trend. A uniformed public is much more likely to be swayed by the tsunami of misinformation or disinformation that fills TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and X — the place where, according to the survey, the vast majority of people are now spending their time.

According to the survey, 73% get their news from social media, 50% from television and a scant 14% from print.

That is the bad news, and it is indeed bad news and quite frightening.

What is driving people away from the news? Mostly it is the unrelenting emphasis on ‘bad news’ — Ukraine, Palestine, violence, crime, not to mention the usual litany of shootings, robberies, fires and shark attacks, when you can get one.

 

That was the bad news. Now, an idea for the good news.

For the past 35 years, we have been running intensive video (MMJ) bootcamps. Thousands of journalists have participated in the program, from The BBC to CBS News to The New York Times, Spectrum, Verizon, Time/Warner and on and on.

During the 5-day bootcamp, the journalists shoot, edit and produce two video stories (using only iPhones). The first is a one-minute video to become acquainted with the tech and the process. The second is a more in-depth story — the topic of both is left entirely to them.

These are all seasoned journalists with years, if not decades of experience in the news business. They may choose any story they want to cover.

And what do they choose to cover? Without exception over 35 years, left to their own devices, they choose personal uplifting and inspirational stories about people. Stories that make the viewer feel good.

No one makes them do this. They may choose anything. They can do fires or shootings or even shark attacks. Not one of them has ever done that. They choose what they WANT to see, and what they want to see is what their viewers also want to see.

I tend to think if we were to pivot away from horror and scary stories, really the remnant of the press wars of the 1920s — (Pulitzer, Hearst, Northcliffe up to Murdoch) — stories designed solely to aggregate eyeballs, and instead provided a more inspirational journalism, we might reverse this trend.

The survey says not even journalists want to cover these kinds of stories. This doesn’t mean abrogating good journalism or investigative journalism or even war coverage, but it does mean covering it from a different perspective — personal, poigniant and emotionally connected to what viewers and readers actually want.

And what to they want? They want the same things that all people want — to feel better about their lives, their world and their future and the future for their children.

That can also be news.

Here’s an example of a positive story, done by one of our bootcamp grads, Taylor Schuab, in just one day with an iPhone. It was the first piece he ever did and it was just nominated for an Emmy.

Now THAT is good news.

 


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The news business is in trouble. In the past decade, more than 2400 local newspapers have closed. NBC Nightly News gets 5 million viewers per night, in a nation of 340 million people, so most people are not watching. What are they watching? Netflix.


For most of human history, people lived in a world without news. The concept simply did not exist.


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