Ever hear the old adage, “Look on the bright side. Things could be worse”?
Sometimes this cliché may be more meaningful than we realize. It’s been a tough week in current events. The U.S. government is facing a looming deadline to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling, amidst fears of defaulting on its debt. One of the worst famines in history has ravaged Somalia and Kenya, with millions in need of aid. A man in Norway murdered 93 people in a bomb attack and shooting rampage. At least 38 people have died in a terrible train crash in China. Singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at the age of 27. And here in Atlanta, the public school system has been marred by a widespread cheating scandal that has drawn national attention. The list goes on.
Ugh. The spate of bad news is depressing. There must be good news, I thought. Curious, I searched a sample of newspapers’ homepages from across the country, in no particular order: Cleveland Plain Dealer; Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Miami Herald; and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here are the headlines that greeted me upon arrival at the homepage:
- Congressional leaders struggle for a compromise debt limit deal
- Couples wed on 1st day gay marriage is legal in New York
- FBI investigation of Murdoch’s media empire may defer to British process
- Bath Township man is missing
- Labor deal reached in NFL to end lockout
- Experts slam evidence in Knox case
- Road rage claims life of innocent victim
- 20 injured in 2 separate shootings
- Marlins’ new stadium brings jobs, opportunities
- Customers: Carpet-scrubbing companies took us to the cleaners
- Fact-checking the West-Wasserman Schultz feud
- Miami-Dade’s proposed budget cuts target employees
- NFL, players agree on contract terms
- Man dies in skydiving accident
- Few details on GOP, Dem debt plans
- Hunt for man who ran over cop
- Norway suspect in court today
For an international flavor, I also checked headlines at the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald. The SMA included coverage of Amy Winehouse, but two positive stories caught my eye: a story about Australian swimmer James Magnussen praised by Olympian Michael Phelps and a story on the addition of female butchers increasing sales at local butcher shops.
But, overall, very little positive news to report this morning. One could conclude that the state of the world is gloomy at the moment and few positive things are happening. But, in fact, the reverse is really true. Yes, there are some depressing news events taking place. But – to pull an old trick out of my grad school cap – if we apply agenda setting theory, we recognize that the media does not tell us what to think, but rather what to think about. The media keeps us apprised of current events and happenings with a role to inform, but we must draw our own conclusions about what to think.
And, as a reporter once told me, everyday life is rather dull, boring and routine. The unusual, the unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events get covered because they are not the norm. Every day people take their kids to school, go camping on vacation – and do not get attacked by bears – people ride in trains, airplanes and cars and do not die in a crash. They go to their grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, jobs, gatherings with friends and generally have a routine experience.
So, really, we don’t have to depend on the news for the “bright side.” We see it every day in our own lives.