Only Bad News Are Good News?

While reading a text for one of my seminars, I came across the words “only bad news are good news”, and immediately asked myself whether this statement is true and why people seem to be so much more interested in bad news.

During my research, I read an article by Tom Stafford who presents the results of an experiment made by Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka. They came to the conclusion that “participants often chose stories with a negative tone” although they claimed themselves to prefer good news. This behaviour is explained with the fact that “people respond quicker to negative words”. Moreover, bad news have a certain impact as they seem to be a little bit more surprising as people believe that “the world is rosier than it actually is.” Accordingly, we seem to unconsciously prefer bad rather than good news.

Nevertheless, there were also times when good news dominated the headlines, like, for example, Prince William’s and Kate’s wedding. This responds to the discovery of Jonah Berger that although we tend to focus more on bad news, “good news spread[] the fastest”.

In my opinion, an emotional attachment to the presented events may also play a certain role. If an event seems to be relevant enough to cause pleasure, fear or anger, it may get a lot of attention. People want something to talk about, something to react to. If something happens that may have an influence on someone’s life, it will be discussed a lot. Let’s take, for example, the US presidential election. People all over the world extensively talked about it, because so many issues are linked to it: politics, the environment, the reputation of the American, or even the Simpsons predicting the future. Some people fear what might happen now, while others happily celebrate the new President.

All in all, bad news really seem to be good news for the media, as people tend to focus more on them. Nevertheless, good news can also have a certain impact as they are more likely to be shared and contain a certain emotional attachment.

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