Every morning, the national news presents many stories to all Americans. When looking across the array of headlines, the hyped stories all have a common theme. All of the features are the “bad news” of the day. While it is necessary to talk about a recent mass shooting, or Democrats versus Republicans, or the struggle that COVID-19 has brought upon the US, there is NO good news in sight. While people need to keep up with the pressing matters of the world, why is that the only information presented? Certainly, there are also incredibly uplifting stories happening every day. People can’t even go to social media for relief because it is arguably even worse, filled with hate comments about race, religion, and political affiliation. So the question becomes, why do people tune in every morning to watch the negative news on loop, covering the heartbreak and tragedy of others, and why will they not showcase any uplifting news?
There is a German term, schadenfreude, and it means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It is human nature to feel relief when seeing others’ pain because it makes people happy that the misfortune did not befall them. This idea could lead to why people keep tuning in to the news every morning, knowing it will solely be filled with disaster and tragedy. The American equivalent to this saying is “everyone loves watching a trainwreck.” This is the reason why much of reality television is so enticing and could also be why people enjoy watching unfortunate events unfold on the news.
In 2015, renowned journalist Dan Rather sat down with Carlos Santana, a legendary guitarist and musician. Rather asked Santana what he wanted to see or do before he died. Santana said he would love to see a news station that only played uplifting and inspiring news 24/7, little everyday miracles and good deeds. He gives the example of running a daily story of a woman giving birth instead of showing a killing. Santana would describe the idea behind the station as containing the “excellence, beauty, integrity” of humanity.
Over quarantine, amidst the shock of the lockdown, John Krasinski decided to follow a similar route and create a Youtube channel called “Some Good News.” He made 20-minute segments weekly, where he displayed the good in people and covered stories that emphasized that the world is not all bad. He earned 2.56 million followers on his channel, people who wanted to hear about the good news. The people who made the news station possible did not seem to treat it as a job but instead as a passion.
This begs the question: would you spend as much time watching the news if the majority of the stories were uplifting and positive, with only the necessary facts of what you would need to know about the bad news of the day? Showcasing the good news would allow people to feel less angry, divided, stressed, sad, scared… Maybe seeing a story about over 900 cars paying for the person behind them at a local Dairy Queen drive-thru in Minnesota might make people more inclined to taking part in these generous acts themselves. These positive stories would make people feel uplifted, generous, happy, forgiving… It would most certainly make people feel better to start their day finding out about an exciting birth of a panda at a Zoo, than hearing about a robbery. What is stopping us from doing this?
Graphic: John Krasinski – Some Good News