COMMENT: EDITORIAL; Good is fine, but bad is better

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is more good news than you think. The bad news is that bad news is still more likely to dominate the news agenda.

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is more

good news than you think. The bad news is that bad news is still more

likely to dominate the news agenda.



The London Evening Standard has bravely come out and said what many PR

folk - who are chiefly in the business of promoting good news - have

long suspected. That the ‘unremitting diet of bad news’ served up by the

media gives a misleading impression of reality, and that, while not

inaccurate, ‘individual news stories become divorced from proper

perspective or context’.



The last person to bang the good news drum was newscaster Martyn Lewis,

of ‘Cats in the news’ fame, who first expounded his theory in an article

for PR Week.



He was ridiculed for his views by more ‘serious’ colleagues. But in fact

he never argued for the inclusion of ‘no car crashes today, budgie

rescued’ type stories as major news items. Instead he argued that good

news should not be shoved to the bottom of the agenda just because it is

good news.



The old journalistic adage is that news is what someone doesn’t want you

to print, is still true. And there is no question that the reading and

viewing public has an appetite for others’ misfortune. But it only tells

half the story. News - whether good or bad - can also be what someone

else does want you to print. It is up to the journalist to decide where

the truth and the interest lies.



But the savaging of Lewis revealed the depth of the macho conviction

among ‘serious’ journalists that bad news is necessarily better,

journalistically speaking, than good news. Good news does not win

Pulitzer prizes or BAFTA awards, bad news does. And woe betide any media

person that lets the side down by saying otherwise.



The Standard’s leader declared that ‘there is good news out there, and

the media shouldn’t be afraid to report it.’ Hollow words? It would be

nice to think that a new era of enlightened reporting will result. On

the other hand, it’s about as likely as seeing News Bunny stand in for

Paxman on Newsnight.



PR will continue to push good news stories, and quite properly the

media will continue to seek out the bad news. The public interest is

best served by a professionally conducted adversarial relationship

between PR and journalism, with neither side supine in response to brow-

beating from the other. But good PR people should at least be able to

put the bad news about their clients in context. And good journalists

should be able to see the validity of reporting it that way.



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