Bad news is good news for journalists

By AMANDA WOODS

I’m not a mean-spirited person.  I don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone.

Or do I?

Before I started studying journalism, I used to complain to my parents during nightly newscasts.  “Where’s the good news?” I grumbled after hearing the fifth story about a rape, murder, mugging, kidnapping or  other disaster.  But now I understand — people want to hear the bad news, and sadly, it’s often more newsworthy.

With more journalistic experience, I now realize that, as terrible as it sounds, our profession thrives upon the bad news. When I interned at the press office of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services last year, our office was dull and inactive unless a child abuse case occurred in the area.  

Sometimes we have slow news days at the Spectrum, and nothing interesting is happening at UB.  But when crime breaks out on or near campus hours before our deadline, we finally have a story that students will care about. 

My story for this class about life in the University Heights wouldn’t have any impact if the area wasn’t notorious for violence.  Who  wants to read an article about a neighborhood that has always been safe?  There’s really no story there unless an unexpected violent outbreak occurs.

Make no mistake — bad news sells.

People’s minds are wired to care about the unexpected, the controversial, and the downright insane.

The media never misses out on stories about scandals involving celebrities or public figures.  It always tells negative stories about the economy, but rarely positive ones.

 Now, I’m finding myself just as hungry for bad news as the broadcasters I complained about as a child.  It’s a bit scary, but I’ll just take it as part of the journalistic package.

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2 responses to “Bad news is good news for journalists

  1. Thanks so much for the link, maybe next time instead of using the problems in the Heights as good news becasue you have something to write about for your class, you could look a little deeper. Much of what is going on around here has its roots in UB policies and decision making. Also, try to remember, that for you it might just be a story, but there are also actual people who are trying to live here.

  2. Good post Amanda.
    Alas, yes, this is a problem for journalists. But good news stories do sell, too. We love reading about heroes and happy endings. Spectrum could look for those sorts of stories, too.

    Also, the answer lady (above) is right. Looking for people affected by a story (like crime in the Heights) and hearing their version gives stories depth. It might give you ideas for more stories, or a series or simply add another perspective to the story you are telling.
    Links: 3
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