As I began writing this article, something seemed familiar. Had I read about what was on my mind somewhere recently? Then it clicked. I searched my article archives, and there it was. Two years ago I wrote a similar article…What America’s network news consisted of and its effects on society.
In the last two years, I haven’t seen positive changes that puts this issue at rest in my mind and in my heart. The horrors that we, as human beings, bring upon each other on purpose astound me…especially when we are also capable of creating such beautiful things and we have a choice in the matter of which way we want to be.
While I think it’s important to stay abreast of the current events going on in our world, I am not a big fan of the news. At all. I went through at least a decade of refusing to watch one minute of news, nor would I allow anyone in my house watch it. I found it extremely depressing, unbearably redundant and strangely addictive. Like a car wreck you couldn’t look away from. I figured if there was something serious enough going on in the world, I was sure to hear about it from somebody.
In the last few years, however, I have mellowed. I’ll watch a little CNN to get a fifteen minute catch up on events around the globe and I like “NBC Nightly News ” at 6:30 PM. Rather, I like the way they deliver the news. They tend to throw in a few current event curveballs.
Of the three hottest current event topics (always depressing or violent) redundantly monopolizing the airwaves, NBC Nightly News will leave those stories out at times. Or at least not always lead with them. The other events they cover are usually just as depressing as the top stories, but at least it’s a break from the redundancy.
In their thirty minute broadcast, there are about twenty-three minutes of actual news. The remaining seven minutes are broken up into commercial breaks. The very last story every evening on NBC Nightly News is called “Making A Difference.” This segment is always about an inspiring person or organization doing wonderful, selfless acts to make the world a better place. I am moved to tears by these stories and motivated to do more in my own life to help my fellow human being.
The story lasts somewhere between two and three minutes, and then we are bid good night. The first twenty minutes, 99.9% of the time, are stories of shootings whose after effects on society are becoming as violent as the actual shootings themselves, the latest tragedy Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, the nasty negatives of politics, the latest war(s) casualties, terrorism, our sputtering economy… I could go on forever.
If only three out of the twenty-three minutes of news reported has an inspiring, feel-good, uplifting nature, we are watching 92% of negative and 8% of positive. That’s like a diet of 92% carbs and 8% of fruits and vegetables. Who could live a long, happy, healthy life with a diet like that?
I realize I am doing a bit of generalizing by using only one program on one network as an example, but I’ve watched dozens of other networks news programs to be fair and I found them all to be pretty much the same… Depressing, redundant and addictive, with each network having an occasional uplifting exception. So what is there to do? Who holds the power to change things? The networks, the journalists or us, the viewers?
Has society become so addicted to tragedy, trauma and drama that networks purposely make it the majority of what they air because that’s what sells? And what about copycat crimes? I don’t think it’s a coincidence when you hear of multiple shootings with extremely similar circumstances within a week or ten days.
Folks aren’t marching throughout the country in protest because they have nothing else to do. Is the “if it bleeds, it leads” idea so profitable, that networks purposely, repeatedly air violent copycat crimes, regardless of the possible cost of human lives?
Or is it us, the viewers? Have we expressed our need for tragedy and drama so much that the networks are simply giving us what we respond to, regardless of the cost? And I’m not talking about financial cost, I’m talking about what it is costing society, even though we are the ones doing it to ourselves. Are we the addicts and our supplier is simply giving us what we are banging on their door for?
I’m not looking to blame anyone and I don’t have the solution. But what if we tried something. What if there was a news network that only reported on inspiring, uplifting, motivating stories? It could be called PNN… Positive News Network.
It would broadcast stories about Doctors Without Borders, parents who are homeschooling their children and getting them into college by the age of twelve (true story), the incredible animals that reside in Africa, the stunning glaciers in Alaska, hearing politicians speak of hope, growth and change and then putting words into action, a country previously under a dictatorship that has just become a democracy…If we look, there are just as many positive events occurring as negative. And they are not in hiding. It’s as easy as going to a different department of a store.
Imagine the copycat “crimes” we may see from people watching twenty-three minutes of PNN. Someone may join the Peace Corps, or take steps to live a “greener” life to preserve Mother Nature, or register to vote for the first time or become more involved in children’s education. Perhaps an individual makes a serious effort to change their eating habits after they were inspired by a story PNN aired. Now that’s a copycat “crime” I’d like to see people marching for.
More interestingly, how would we feel after watching twenty-three minutes of new’s stories like that. I feel happy just writing about it. Imagine actually experiencing it, and after the program was over, you would be left thinking of all the incredible, inspiring things happening around our globe instead of wondering how so many tragic events continue to occur.
I’m not so naïve that if PNN (or a network like it) existed, the world’s population would flock to it and never watch another regular news program again. I do think there is something to be said for staying in touch with what is happening around us, and beautiful events occur along with catastrophic ones. But what if we changed our diet a bit?
Not too radical, not overnight, but what if we made things slightly more balanced… Say 80% CNN and 20% PNN. Would we change, or would we stay exactly the same? Nature vs. Nurture… Is it genetic inheritance or environmental exposure that develops and determine who we are? Or is it a bit of both?
Coming from an individual who has pulled positive pieces out of extremely challenging circumstances, I see absolutely nothing positive to pull from the horrors going on in the Middle East and East Africa. And in our own country, the rise in police shootings and our society’s reaction to it.
As I said earlier, I don’t have the answer to help society become more positive and tolerant of one another. A news network focusing on positive current events instead of negative ones is just an idea to try. But I do know what will change if we don’t try to spread the global current events that display the beauty of what the human spirit can achieve. Nothing.