Opinion | If politics and negativity are all the news media has to offer, I don’t want it anymore

Illustration by Claire Deely

Bryce Randall, Contributing Writer

Recently, it seems like everything we see in the media is either political or surrounded by negativity. You tune into the local news, and the first story that pops up often has something to do with guns or politics. If you’re lucky, it might be a combination of both. It’s time to end this trend of only spreading political and negative news, and share some positivity. 

As a disclaimer to the reader, I would like to clarify that I am not attempting to perpetuate ignorance. I believe that the general public should be aware of what is going on in their society and that the news has an obligation to report on aspects of politics along with all the violent and negative events that occur in our country. That being said, there is obviously a general imbalance in the types of stories that are being published. 

In the mass media, it feels like the front-page news stories are consistently tethered to President Donald Trump. I went to read The New York Times, and one of the first things I saw on their homepage was an article covering the president’s impeachment sandwiched between one on a doctor who studied the coronavirus and another about Pete Buttigieg at the Iowa caucus. Although these articles are covering relevant material, they present the same narrow selection of topics that the media has chosen to focus consistently on — politics and tragedy. 

The problem is not just with major news sources; the local news is the same way. The Richmond Times-Dispatch is flooded with the same negative energy. I used to be a regular reader of the newspaper, but reading the same articles about local government and crime gets stale and, quite frankly, exhausting. 

Out of the 137 articles published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the past week, at least 50 stories detailed crime, poverty or politics. Additionally, around 30 articles were focused on sports and, while sports can be a positive subject, it should not be the primary source of positive news that can be found in the local paper. There are more potential positive stories to cover than a high school basketball player getting a full-ride to the college of their dreams. Considering that these sports stories — along with articles about politics, poverty, and crime dominate the Richmond Times-Dispatch, only a small fraction of stories in comparison focus on the non sports-related positive news in the Richmond area. 

Some may argue that tragedy and politics are what sell, that these are the stories that catch the most attention. Admittedly, media outlets need viewership to stay alive. That being said, if the stories produced by the media are only meant to gain attention, then the media and journalists are failing at their jobs. The whole point of the news is to get a balanced view of society. How can that be done when only three or four different categories of stories that predominantly cover inherently negative news are offered?

Additionally, if it is the case that tragedy and politics are the things that sell, what does that say about us as a society? It is sad that we would rather consume a story about gun regulation or a horrible car accident involving a local college student than a story about another local college student getting onto American Idol or a church starting a new food drive for the homeless.   

As a writer for The Commonwealth Times, I am just as guilty of writing just as many negative stories as the next person. However, at this point, I have realized that I need to change the style and method of which I write because, in all honesty, I have exhausted myself with my own negative emotions. 

Negativity and politics are not solely limited to the news outlets of the media. A coworker of mine said the constant political skits on “Saturday Night Live” made her gradually stop watching the show altogether. I find it both ironic and upsetting that “Saturday Night Live,” a show about comedy — that was created to make people laugh and generate positive energy —  has become politically focused to the point where it has become exhausting to watch and has managed to turn off a viewer. If that’s not a sign of how suffocating the media can be, I don’t know what is. 

Negativity is real, and the news can’t all be sunshine and lollipops, but the amount of heavy and serious news stories completely outweighs the positive news. So, to everyone reading this article — writer or not — I challenge you to spread some positivity in your community.

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