The media, bad news, and what can be done to help

Erin Lungwitz, Editor of Editorials

If you flip on any news channel, or look at the cover of any newspaper you will see bad news. By the looks of the media the world is a place of constant doom: A murder on Apple Street, a devastating car crash, and wallabys have been found to occasionally sacrifice their joeys when in danger. With bad news constantly bombarding society it’s sometimes hard to see a glimmer of hope, or the light at the end of the tunnel.

I understand that negative news is important so that people are aware of their world and what’s happening in it, but isn’t it also important to know about the good things that are happening in a community, or at least a way to respond to the bad things to make them better? I stumbled upon this idea when I was thinking about the recent Austin flood.

There have been many stories in Austin’s news about the recent Austin flooding, but most headlines about the flood say something like: “Historic Flash Flood Leaves Devastation in Austin” (Rick Jervis), or “Austin floods left about 200 students without homes, school district says” (Benjamin Wermund). It is very important that people know of the flooding, and the extreme devastation that came with it. Ideally people would read these terribly tragic headlines and jump out of their easy-chairs, throw on their galoshes and make their way down to the scene of the flood and help, but sadly the ideal reaction is unlikely. What the media needs is more positive articles about how the community can help in times of crisis. How can the greater Austin community help out these people who have lost their homes?

From what I know, pounding bad news into people’s heads in 546 different ways won’t make them DO anything about the situation. One of the most important movies I’ve ever watched is Hotel Rwanda. This movie is about the Rwandan genocide. In the movie there is a reporter named Jack who goes out onto the streets of Rwanda and films the atrocities occurring there. He brings the film of the violence back to the main character, a Rwandan named Paul. Here is there interaction (courtesy of imdb):

Paul Rusesabagina: I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.

Jack: Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?

Paul Rusesabagina: How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?

Jack: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, ‘oh my God that’s horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.

Unfortunately people are swamped with so much bad news that they are immune to it. The only solutions I see in getting people to react to crises in their communities is to limit the number of stories in the media solely focusing on bad things happening in the world, and instead speak of what people can do to help others in times of crisis.