Why now is the time for serious optimism
Recent political events have shown that the ‘doom and gloom’ news narrative no longer serves society. A more inspiring lens on the world is needed in order to heal division and empower people to bring about change.
Following the Brexit vote and Trump’s surprise election, questions have been asked about the media’s role in creating social division. Last month, Oxford Dictionaries named ‘post-truth’ the word of the year, describing circumstances when objective facts are less influential than appeals to emotion and beliefs. Our social media feeds have become echo chambers, critics say, and ‘fake’ news is proliferating. And only 25 per cent of people trust journalists to tell the truth.
Meanwhile, Stop Funding Hate has emerged, urging advertisers to withdraw from tabloids that the campaign claims fuel hate through aggressive anti-migrant stories.
But zoom out, and there is a wider issue about how the media has been influencing society.
For a long time, the press has been telling a negative story about human nature and what is happening in our world. The broad narrative that arises is that things are bad and getting worse; that we live in an acutely dangerous world characterised by self-interest, competition and scarcity.
Recent decades, however, have in fact brought much progress globally and by many measures. They include a reduction of extreme poverty; fewer people dying as a result of conflicts; improving health and life expectancy; more countries having become democracies, and falls in violent crime.
Nevertheless, the benefits have not been equally shared. And it goes without saying that problems faced by individuals, communities, nations and the world as a whole – from climate change to social inequality – need our urgent attention.
But, despite the brilliance of so much journalism, the media’s excessive focus on bad news has created a story about our world that distorts reality, divides us and – counterproductively – limits our ability to respond effectively to the challenges we face.
Where the media puts its attention and how it frames the information it selects, is a precious choice. It wields a powerful influence over our individual and collective mind states and it guides our shared cultural story. There’s an urgent need, and opportunity, for a better story about ourselves, our world, and what’s possible…
Read the whole article by Seán Dagan Wood in Positive News.