Don't be manipulated

The other day someone commented about how depressed he felt after watching one of the evening newscasts. Others have mentioned an increasing grimness and oftentimes a bizarre nature to the stories they see on some news programs. According to an article in which certain longtime journalists and news executives were interviewed about the news in one particular city, that's a direction some news programs are consciously taking.

Many of those interviewed agreed that an important consideration as to what will be included in a program is how shocking or sensational a particular story (or the accompanying pictures) might be. One reason given is increased competition for viewers. Another is the perception that most viewers have an insatiable appetite for the tragic and sensational. Regardless of the reason, the result, one journalist confided, is a nightly portrayal of a dangerous, disease-plagued city that bears little resemblance to its actual condition.

Now, not all producers and journalists buy into that approach. In fact, many of them strongly disagree with it. They see the corrosion of balanced, responsible coverage as not only irresponsible but harmful. One journalist, quoted in The New York Times, put it this way: "If you read every day that everything is crumbling and terrible, you start to feel crummy and terrible, and maybe you start to act crummy and terrible." And, of course, some newspapers and broadcasting services, like those of The Christian Science Monitor, proceed from the basis of actually trying to make a positive difference in the world. As Monitor Editor Richard Cattani recently told us, "We try to look at the serious problems of the world in a way that does not make readers lose the hope that they can be solved."

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Annual Meeting 1993
May 17, 1993

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