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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why Write About Good News?

When you read the newspapers, what do you find?
  • Crime
  • Violence
  • Conflict
  • Mean-spirited actions
  • Sexual improprieties & excess
  • Malpractice & malfeasance
  • Political intrigue
Then there’s the Comics – Snoopy & Charlie Brown are in re-runs and Dilbert is relegated to the Op-Ed pages; the Comics are not comical – they are pretty sad.

Where are the articles about the kindness that one individual does for another; about the little acts of heroism which are so meaningful (and serve as lessons for us all); about the community pitching in to make a difference and do something wonderful; about the exceptional students and their accomplishments; and about the local citizens who are always there in service to others?  I don’t see them in the newspapers – publishers say ‘good news does not sell papers!’.

Perhaps not, but these and similar acts do drive the community and retelling the story of them is uplifting, inspiring, and instructive.  Good news helps to build strong communities.

When you peek at the newspaper in the dispenser on the corner, what do you see through the window?  Disaster, deceit, depression, distress, scandal, gossip, Stock Market drops, deficit of $13T – it just goes on and on in the same fashion.

Here’s a story told to me by a number of individuals – where do you think it fit in the newspaper?  A passenger was waiting to board a flight in a busy airport and overhears 4 guys in military uniforms talking and counting their money.  He heard that they had just returned from Iraq and were trying to figure out if they had enough money to buy something to eat before the flight.  Try as they might, there was not enough money to feed all four.  As the plane was boarding, the passenger spoke to one of the flight attendants and gave her $40 dollars for those box meals they now sell on the plane, asking that they be delivered to the 4 soldiers when food was served during the flight.  The soldiers at first were confused when they received the meals and even tried to give them back to the attendant – she assured them that there was no mistake and the box meals were theirs.  They were quite touched by this anonymous act of generosity and asked that their patron be thanked.  Word of the soldiers’ meals spread throughout the plane after that.

As the passengers were leaving the plane, the pilot and entire flight crew came out of the cockpit and they stopped the passenger who had bought the meals for the 4 guys – to acknowledge him for this grand act of kindness; as they were speaking other passengers heard that he was the one who arranged the meals for the soldiers and bills were forced into his hand as the others passed by and offered their thanks.  As the story goes, when he finally got off the plane, he had a fist full of money - $125 of crumpled bills in all!

He saw the 4 military guys waiting for their bags and gave them the crumpled money, offering a comment that they might get hungry before they got home…and then he just disappeared into the crowd.

Where was this reported in the newspaper?  Nowhere!

Now – doesn’t this story raise a wonderful feeling about this thoughtful act by an individual in acknowledgement of the selfless service by these 4 young men to help preserve our freedom?  Doesn’t it just capture what is RIGHT about people and what is great about America?  This story offers a model of behavior to emulate – not so much buying a meal for someone, but for initiating a thoughtful action just because it is needed, without fanfare and a ‘look-at-me’ posture; just because… Good news yields good acts.  But doesn’t the seamy ‘news’ also have an influence on us as well – a negative and depressing effect?

I was the President of an organization that captioned TV programs and for quite a while the popular format for the afternoon daypart was a ‘magazine program’- which had three separate segments during the half-hour.  Invariably they were a titillating or sexual segment, a violence segment and an excessive lifestyle segment.  All-in-all these programs were negative and unsettling but offered in the name of entertainment. Over time our staff found they were beginning to accept these situations as the norm of behavior in our society.  Nothing could be further from the truth – but it was taking on a perceived reality.  Isn’t the same true for all this ‘bad’ news being printed – at the edge of consciousness it is becoming perceived reality.

So, to answer why write about good news:
  • It reflects a positive reality
  • It is uplifting and a model for the actions of others
  • It causes joy and happiness
  • It acknowledges the good acts by individuals in our community
  • It offsets harsh and ugly behavior reported elsewhere.

A newspaper about accomplishments, positive activities, and local happenings is a strong glue to help build and maintain vibrant communities.  And – it is fun to read!

What's your experience? Where has good news led to good results?
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