Amidst all the doom-and-gloom news, the holiday season seems to be inspiring a few uplifting pieces.
Just one example: 27 Amazing Miracles in Real Life. 27 readers describe the miracles in their life, from surviving cancer to microwave ovens to the Internet.
Whether you find this particular piece touching or just sappy, it’s certainly positive. (It also illustrates the increasingly important role of readers in the creation of media content, but that’s a story for another day.) But why don’t we see more of these uplifting pieces throughout the year?
There seem to be two possible reasons:
- That’s not what consumers want.
- That’s not the purpose of journalism.
I think news outlets can’t claim #1 unless they’ve actually tried focusing substantially on positive news – which most haven’t – so I’ll focus on #2.
What is the purpose of journalism? Surely information and entertainment are two of its purposes. Information can be simply for the sake of information, or to allow us to make better decisions as citizens, consumers, etc. It may spur us to protest or to contribute money, to boycott a product or to head over to the mall for post-holiday bargains. But on a broader scale, we can think of journalism as providing the context in which we live – explaining to us what the world is like, so we can make decisions and act accordingly.
If this is what journalism is all about, there is a desperate need for more positive content. That could include pieces about innovation and creativity, outstanding achievements, or inspiring people. It will communicate the idea that the world is, simply, a good place – a place where we can strive and succeed, find inspiration and happiness. This doesn’t mean that all journalism should be “positive,” or that we should deny the reality of the terrible things that are going on in the world. It just means that we should recognize the other side, as well. And this would allow us to make better decisions as human beings – so we don’t feel lost and helpless in a sea of war and death, but able to see clearly both the bad and the good.
Most journalists are bitter people who are on the outside, looking in. They covet access more than any other commodity, as they are incapable of producing much of lasting import and enduring value. This includes their writing. Thus, in place of a purposeful mission to their professional lives, they instead become “gatekeepers” of whatever particular area of expertise falls under their purview.
I know this for a fact, as I’ve been working as a journalist for a decade now, and have witnessed a lot.