The world as we read it

Consuming negative news gives people a negative outlook on world

Christopher Denkovich, Managing Editor (Print)

Murder, assault, theft and disease. With attention-grabbing headlines attracting more readers, popular news sites have resorted to publishing negative news articles or clickbait with drastic headlines to coerce readers into watching or reading further. What many mainstream news sites fail to consider is what kind of impact publishing negative news has on their readers. The consumption of a constant stream of news that is almost exclusively negative can have serious consequences.

According to the National Library of Medicine, consuming too much negative news can lead to an increase in distress, anxiety and depression. Despite its negative effects, negative news ropes in viewers like no other. As humans, we are biologically programmed to look for any possible threat or harm that could come to us. It makes sense that flashy and scary headlines grab attention and hook viewers to read more. This calls to question whether or not the views are worth the risk. Should mainstream news companies go out of their way to put viewers at risk for views?

Though the over-dramatization of news is comparable to lying to readers, making news entirely positive is an impossible task. No one should expect news outlets to only publish positive stories with fairytale endings. What many viewers need is nothing more than the truth, presented in a way that allows readers to be informed and not threatened. When readers constantly feel threatened by overexaggerated news when there is no change or cause for concern, it creates a “boy who cried wolf” situation. Whether news is under or over-exaggerated, unrealistic situations presented as truth make the facts harder for viewers to decipher. An excellent example of this was throughout  the COVID-19 pandemic during prime lockdown. Depending on which news source readers followed, they were either presented with horrible stories about thousands of people dying, information describing the virus as a complete hoax or a fair mix of the two. How should readers know what to believe when sites tasked to deliver the truth all say something different? 

An easy solution would be to have news sites find other ways to pull in readers besides pulling on their emotions of fear and worry. News sites, if desperate or in need of views, should try different methods to gain more attention than competitors. Some possible solutions would be to improve their journalistic integrity by consistently telling the truth, and the full truth. It doesn’t matter how eye-catching a headline is if the reader can not trust the source.

No one benefits from frightening and negative news. Viewers can suffer from increased anxiety, depression and distress when surrounded by it. The news sites become less reputable the more they frighten readers when there is no cause for concern or need to do so. The best course of action for everyone is to honestly represent the severity of every story. The world is full of uncertainties. Many unfortunate and frightening events happen more often than they should. These events should without a doubt be covered and reported on, even if they are negative. However, a surplus of other wonderful things takes place every day in the world. These events should not be taken for granted or unrepresented because they have a chance of bringing in fewer views. These are the stories that need to be publicized and spread so that news outlets can have positive effects on their community instead of negative ones. Overly published negative news helps no one, choose to spread kindness when kindness can be spread.