The Good News Revolution

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
May 1 2013 4:11 PM

The Good News Revolution

165538672
A Facebook employee holds a laptop with a 'like' sticker on it during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ben Adler's CJR cover story on millenial media consumption habits and their implications for journalism is interesting throughout, but one particular theme he mentions that was novel to me is that people prefer to share upbeat stories:

The emphasis on sharing may result in even more soft, feel-good material. As the Times reported in May, “By scanning people’s brains and tracking their emails and online posts, neuroscientists and psychologists have found that good news can spread faster and farther than disasters and sob stories.” Jonah Berger, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Times: “When you share a story with your friends and peers, you care a lot more how they react. You don’t want them to think of you as a Debbie Downer.”
Advertisement

The convention in prognosticating about journalism is to arbitrarily assume that the old way is good and change is bad. Personally, I think a change to more positivity and less emphasis on Debbie Downer stories would be good. There is an extremely pronounced negativity bias in the way news coverage is traditionally done, and that misleads people and distorts our understanding of the world. If half a dozen people in some town somewhere get caught in some kind of food stamp fraud, that's news. The fact that over the past several decades government transfer programs have led to a massive reduction in poverty and deprivation is not. If a middle-income country is hit by an earthquake that kills hundreds of people, that gets a lot of coverage. If a middle-income country enjoys 5 percent real income growth and rising living standards, that's not news.

In general, journalists sometimes neglect the fact that even before the Internet the media business was still a business and publications were still pursuing business strategies. A kind of relentless negativity and alarmism was the dominant business strategy of 20th century print media. But it's not the only way to be "serious" or to cover big issues. If social media makes people want to read and share positive stories about things they can be enthusiastic about, I say so much the better.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.