Recently, I was on a walk with my dogs, and listened to my favorite podcast, Freakonomics. The famed book author, Stephen Dubner, is the host, and I thoroughly enjoyed every episode. The most recent one is entitled “Reasons to be Cheerful.” Some of the segments were recorded pre-pandemic, but the episode provides some important messages. A big idea in the episode is that humans are grounded by the negativity bias, in all aspects of life. We see negative events as superior to all of the good around us.
This is especially difficult to resonate with during a global pandemic and amid many global issues. The negativity bias should not devalue legitimate issues such as gun control, climate change, racial injustice, and many others. However, I think this is a perfect time to look at some good news. This is one my favorite websites to find positive news: https://www.positive.news
The podcast also mentions a news-prototype designed by a software engineer employed by the BBC. While the idea has not been implemented, it made me wonder what censorship in this age looks like. The idea basically suggests that somebody could enter a keyword, and according to an algorithm, all articles with that keyword or that theme would be removed from your news search. You would also be able to tailor news to your ‘mood.’
To me, this seems wrong. The reason why I read the news is to be informed: the good, the bad, the ugly. Instead of trying to censor ourselves to certain things going on in the world, why not instead, stop viewing sensationalist media. My favorite news source is Reuters; they present facts, and they do it well. I think it is very ignorant to keep yourself from getting the whole picture, because there is value in learning the most you can.
In journalism, the saying “if it bleeds, it leads” is still present to this day. Who would buy a newspaper that is going to say ‘everything is going relatively well’? Headlines such as “new crisis,” “the most important…”, “the best ways…”, “the worst…”, and similar examples capture an audience, thus making money. But where do we draw the line? Yes, negative news exist undeniably. We are living in negative news, but, a return to the facts would help our world immensely.