It has probably not escaped your attention that the news nowadays is unrelievedly gloomy. Douglas Adams spotted this decades ago when he invented a spaceship powered by Bad News, since this travelled faster than light:
At Quaker meeting this morning a Friend spoke of rationing their intake of news: later on another Friend spoke of the wisdom of avoiding news bulletins first thing in the morning or last thing at night: because in the morning it colours your day at a time when you’re just waking up, and late at night it affects your sleep. Midday is considered to be the best time: and whilst that doesn’t work for me as I’m otherwise engaged, I do generally allow an hour for waking before I put on the headlines. I listen to the main news at six, though I usually find myself switching it off and turning to some joyous music on radio 2 instead – because what I hear generally causes me to feel either angry or depressed, neither of which is good for me.
Of course it’s important to keep up with what’s going on – but there’s a question as to how far the mainstream news actually informs us about real-life events. There is a bias in everything; and as Owen Jones points out in his book ‘The Establishment’, at the moment it is a pro-business and (god help us) a relentlessly anti-Corbyn bias. This can be seen in the BBC as well as most newspapers.
I could have a rant about political bias, but what concerns me most right now is the bias towards the negative. As I said in the post about drama, happiness is considered dull: only misery, it seems, makes good news. So that even when a positive item makes it onto the agenda, it is usually qualified by doubts about how long it will continue – doubts which are never expressed, say, about a war or an economic crisis.
I don’t think this is necessarily conscious and deliberate: the news outlets may even be unaware that they are doing it. They may simply think that this is what news is: good news is no news. But it means that our vision of the world – as we see it through these outlets – is overwhelmingly biased towards the negative; and (which should concern them more) it means that people like me are reaching more and more for the off-switch.