“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news... and it's not entirely the media's fault: bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.”
Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills 10
Seasickness on Stranded Whale-Watch Boat
Faulty Tanning Bed Sends Three to ER
--top headlines, Boston.com, 7/30/14
It’s been a miserable few weeks for our world, at least according to all the downbeat, doomsday and depressing news erupting in the media. War in Israel/Palestine. War in the Ukraine. Planes shot out of the sky. Immigrant kids face rage filled protesters who tell those innocent children to just go back home. That’s just globally. Locally, if Boston.com is to be believed, flesh eating bacteria is on our shores, whale watching is a potentially vomit marked disaster, and even tanning beds can hurt you, though we already knew that.
Read the news, hear the news, face the news and it’s almost impossible not to be pessimistic about our chances as a species and planet, yet here’s a truth which will never make page one. There is actually good new about the world but it doesn’t sell newspapers. Doesn’t drive folks to news websites. Doesn’t fill up the Twitter-sphere with millions of re-tweets. Bad news is very, very big business. As the journalistic cliché proclaims, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
But the good news is…there is good news. Try this. According to the latest statistics from the United States Department of Justice, violent crime in our country has been cut in half during the last 20 years, from 747.1 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 1994 to only 366.1 crimes per 100,000 last year. A fifty percent drop. Where are the banner headlines?
Or how about this news from a 2013 report on global poverty by the United Nations? "The world is witnessing an epochal 'global rebalancing' with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new 'global middle class'. Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast." I haven’t heard that lead trumpeted on any news broadcasts—have you? Where’s the celebration about this world changing event?
Warfare: compared to other times in human history, the world right now is actually the least violent it has ever been. The least warring. The good old days? One hundred years ago World War I raged, a conflagration which resulted in the deaths of 37 million people. World War II, just a generation later, killed 60 million people, 2.5 percent of the world’s population. A conflict today would have to produce 176,150,000 deaths to compare in scope. Wars are always bad, always, but statistically speaking war is not now what it once was. Not even close.
Global health is improving too, especially for kids. The number of children under five years old who die from diseases like malaria, malnutrition, polio and measles has been halved, halved in the last twenty years, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Or how about human freedom? A generation ago millions of citizens lived under autocratic communist rule throughout Eastern Europe in places like Poland, East Germany, Romania, and Hungary. Today the Cold War is a footnote in history and all those folks are now free, in still emerging democracies, not perfect, but certainly much better than in 1985. How soon we forget.
Heck, last weekend I was one of 5,500 bicycle riders who rode the length of Massachusetts in the Pan Mass Challenge and raised more than $40 million dollars for cancer care and research. It garnered no headlines on Boston.com but good news rarely does. Like stories about folks of faith who faithfully feed the hungry day in and day out. Kind hearted souls who shelter the homeless. Good neighbors who care for one another. That’s not the stuff of Pulitzer Prizes but we need to hear this news too.
I’m not ready to say these are the best of times. Old problems go away and new ones inevitably arise: global warming, terrorism, violent religious fundamentalism, government dysfunction. Yet is our world really as bad as the media makes it out to be? Or is instead the news we consume about the world perpetually slanted to the awful, the sensational, the bloody and the bad, and all for boffo ratings and plentiful profits?
I choose to be hopeful about the days ahead, in spite of the daily deluge of bad news, because this is never the whole story. I choose to believe that within humanity there is always the possibility of renewal, redemption and even peace. My faith in God inspires this, but so too does faith in my fellow human beings.
So here’s to the good news about our world. It is out there. Find some good news to read today, or better yet, with your one life, make some good news for others. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Film at 11!