Catastrophic chain of crisis

Allison Nick, Staff Reporter

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Millions of news articles are published daily. Of these articles, the majority of them cover negative events. The “Breaking News” is often a report of a missing person or a violent attack instead of showing individuals influencing their communities for the better.

This extensive broadcasting of negative events dominates our television screens and phone notifications, too. So, when the public is only fed negativity into their daily lives, it can be hard to combat it with a positive outlook. This overwhelming negativity can affect a consumer’s mood in seconds, possibly causing them to react negatively, causing more issues and spreading the hostility.

Politically speaking, Harvard professor and political scientist Pippa Norris wrote in her book “A Virtuous Circle: Political Communications in Post-Industrial Societies” that “the impact of bad news on public disaffection is widely assumed but rarely demonstrated.”

If this were true and pessimistic news truly has no effect on the public, then there is no explanation for why negative events continue to occur, as if it was a part of a chain reaction.

According to Anne-Katrin Arnold, a communications officer for World Bank, a financial institution that provides loans to foreign countries to fund capital programs, many of the negative news aspects are due to how articles are framed.

“Framing is about presenting an issue in a specific light and from a specific perspective. Framed messages are usually intended to make the audience focus on certain aspects of an issue but not on others,” Arnold stated on WorldBank.org.

Whether it is news of foreign countries or news from down the street, framing is a key aspect of how news is presented and perceived. However, so many events are framed in a negative light, resulting in the spread of pessimistic ideas.

For example, when news of the recent Florida shooting spread across the U.S., the media rushed to cover the event. Though all of the articles covered the clear facts of the event, some took it a step further. Various articles went straight on to attacking American politicians for the lack of gun control laws in the U.S. It wasn’t until later that reports started to surface of the heroes at the school who jumped in to save the students.

“[The news] is not used for positivity. Instead, it leads to more negativity in society,” said sophomore Sam Jeon, commenting on his own observations of the negative chain reaction caused by our everyday news feeds.

According to “Turning Bad News into Good,” written by psychologist Jill Suttie and published on Berkeley University’s website in 2015, “When we hear uplifting stories, we are more likely to feel good, become inspired, and take positive action.”

However, for this chain reaction to be true of positive messages, the same must be true for the opposite. This means that when we, as humans, hear disheartening stories, it could cause us to respond in a negative manner: fighting fire with fire.

“That’s because our social brains are finely tuned to our social environment, and our emotions and attitudes are contagious,” continued Suttie.

The Media Malaise Theory, though it focuses more on political communications specifically, can help explain the consumers’ response to negative events.

According to Communicationtheory.org, a website that publishes various scientific theories surrounding the study of communications, the Media Malaise Theory states, “The way media covers news or puts it before the public has a negative impact on society as a whole.”

When connected to Arnold’s idea that framing plays a key role in how news is delivered to an audience, it makes sense that this would create a negative impact on society. Consumers react to the information that is placed in front of them, whether it be negative or positive, and respond accordingly.

Although the world’s problems cannot be solved with the simple shift of media, news stations can work to provide a healthy balance of coverage for both positive and negative events. This could create a greater sense of optimism, no matter how small the change may start. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all.

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Catastrophic chain of crisis