Why does the media focus on destruction?

The news is always full of war, disaster, and tragedy. Too many inventors go unknown, while murderers are rewarded with massive fame. We should make famous someone for fixing problems, not for causing them.
Where is the coverage for the engineers working tirelessly to solve the world’s greatest problems?
Same thing with political coverage. We get blow-by-blow coverage of scandals, but success seems to go unnoticed.
Why does the media seem to focus on the negative?

Because the unusual is interesting and the usual isn’t.

Most humans are basically good. Most people will try to help others. Acts of human decency and charity happen a million times a day and are so ordinary that they are not worth reporting.

The people who behave antisocially are the rare exception. The fact that they are so rare makes them interesting.

nm - basically the said same as post #2. (was writing mine while #2 was already getting posted)

The media overwhelmingly slant their stories to what their readers or viewers most want. This is has been true ever since mass newspapers began in the 1830s. Every single era has had people making your complaint.

The answer is always, and will always be, that’s the people want.

It’s the old instinct of the hunter-gatherer staring into the dark beyond the campfire, trying to figure out what made a noise.

Fearful people crave information. In the absence of information, fear makes us invent things to be afraid of–things that are often worse than the reality, so even bad news feels better than not knowing. Therefore, fear sells papers/glues eyes to the tube/drives clicks. A general atmosphere of insecurity is beneficial to news media, and they know it, though perhaps more as a collection of professional wisdom than an actual understanding of why it works. Eric Pooley complained in 1989 that the TV news rule was “If it bleeds, it leads.” The increase in media saturation has brought tougher competition, so the news is bloodier than ever.

In short, J. Q. Public doesn’t tune in to listen to the farm report.

The news is whatever people find interesting, which sometimes can involve good news, as long as it’s novel. An apparently successful cease fire and peace deal, a new scientific breakthrough or amazing piece of new technology will all make headlines.

That said, there’s something of a positive feedback happening, particularly in the US, between people being afraid and the news carrying scary stories. For anyone that travels a lot it’s noticeable how negative the US news is, and how they try to spin everything as being an impending threat to YOU, the viewer.

For the OP, I would recommend publications such as The Economist. The thing I like about it the most is that they do carry stories like “Impressive growth of Ethiopian economy” or “Big decline in global heroin trade”, or whatever, which otherwise you’d never hear about.

Be careful what you wish for. A world in which “human being behaves decently” was deemed news-worthy would be a terrible, terrible world to live it. A headline like that would imply decent behaviour was a rare departure from the norm of casual cruelty.

I’m going to move this to Great Debates, I believe [del]in a thing called love[/del] it fits a little better there.

Andy Rooney had the answer to this many years ago. He did a piece showing only good news. The gist was:

Reporter: I’m in Florida where the orange groves were hit with another night of average weather. The oranges just hung in there and grew.

Reporter: Here at the banks of the river, the water level is normal. The river is not overflowing its banks, and people are boating and fishing. Back to you in the studio.

I remember vividly the Loma Prieta/San Francisco quake in 1989.

Although deadly, the disaster concentrated in the Marina district of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge (not the Golden State) and collapses of freeways.

So, as a rough estimation just about 1% of the SF area was a disaster, give thanks to building regulations.

But then, while many areas managed to recover quickly; the media was, as one article I read about how the media behaved then, was that the focus on the burning and stretches of freeway that collapsed (very bad, but once again not the whole picture) caused a predictable result.

The media was reporting it like if San Francisco was gone! There was even a funny report of a couple traveling to SF that rented an SUV because they “knew” that San Francisco was all in ruins and would had to drive to lots of rubble.

I really do think that the economy of the region would had been affected significantly if it was not for the amazing coincidence that the Baseball World series was then happening between the SF Giants and the Oakland Athletics.

When the series was restarted a few days later TV showed to the world that Candlestick stadium was up and running and virtually all utilities in the city were not affected, the very emotional singing of “San Francisco” included live vistas of San Francisco that could not be denied, and even the sports commentators happily but also sheepishly said to all viewers: “yes, still standing folks”. At least they managed to plug in the narrative that the city would come back, just like it did in 1908.

Well, it was interesting for the media to be forced to report such a fast recovery in a few days. :slight_smile:

Didn’t you open a very similar thread just a day or two ago? :rolleyes:


If it bleeds, it leads. Footage of forests burning and cities flooded get better ratings than less sensational stories.

Not only that, but destruction is usually unanticipated, while creation is usually known in advance. When there’s a ribbon-cutting on a new skyscraper, well, everyone knew for years that it was being built. It’s not news. When a skyscraper is destroyed by a plane crashing into it, though, that’s not something that was anticipated, and so people want to know what they were missing.

Fuzz and wuzz, baby. Nothing new.

We got the bubble headed bleached blonde
Comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash
With a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry

Blood and gore sells.

Anybody remember when USA Today tried to do positive news on its front pages?

The entire world, in the media and out, mocked them mercilessly and they soon had to go back to regular news.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Ever seen a train coming off the track heading straight toward you? It’s very exciting. Just like watching a train wreck. Not the right thread for the story, but there’s a reason they can still sell stories, and books, and movies and TV shows about the Titanic.

The same reason action movies are the biggest blockbusters. Destruction sells. We live in stupid times.