A July 10 NPR article provides evidence that binging on bad news is, well, bad for us. The article cites a national report which found one in four of the 2,500 Americans surveyed had experienced a “great deal” of stress in the previous month — and that one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was their news diet.
We at Axiom News were honoured when our friend Dr. Lindsey Godwin of Champlain College tweeted the article and then pointed to our work as one of the antidotes to this negative, stress-producing media.
We definitely aspire to be part of creating a brighter future.
|A small group of Axiom News team members co-built this picture of what they believe enables thriving as a generative news team.|
That said, the NPR article and Lindsey’s comment does give us pause.
First of all, we’re well aware that Axiom News is increasingly not the only player in the broader field of media that is — at the risk of over-simplifying — helpful and healthful. Both Images and Voices of Hope and Transformational Media have been doing some great work, most notably hosting conversations amongst current journalism professionals to explore new, more constructive approaches to news.
We’ve also had the privilege of storying Catherine Gyldensted in Denmark, who, after a personal breakdown while working as an investigative reporter — a breakdown she links in large part to the negative focus of her work and workplace — is paving the way for what she calls Constructive Journalism to have a stronger presence in her country.
Solutions Journalism is another facet of this evolution rapidly becoming more widespread.
We at Axiom News have been inspired to just see how many people with gifts and skills in media production seem to be increasingly drawn to creating news of a different hue.
But one question, in my mind at least, is how many people are actually consuming this alternative media?
In Axiom News’ case, while our readership does continue to grow, we’re nowhere near that of a mainstream publication. The reasons for that, of course, would be manifold.
For one, we know we can do better as effective storytellers — a slightly more tricky step, we feel, in our case, as we navigate “telling good stories” with our aspiration to create the conditions for new possibilities to emerge.
But I wonder if there’s also an element in this phenomenon that good or positive or generative news can tend to be just plain less magnetizing.
I don’t think it has to be. But it can be.
We’ve heard hints of this in some of our work. “People don’t want another rah-rah story,” we’re told.
Former New York Times editor Francis Flaherty writes about this phenomenon in his book, The Elements of Story: “The funny thing is that story about a striking achievement keeps reader and subject at a distance. After all, who can relate to such superhuman accomplishments?”
Let’s be honest, most of us find something magnetic about struggle and especially people that are vulnerable about their struggles. Perhaps it is because, as Henri Nouwen writes, the potential for our own healing exists in that openness as it does nowhere else. “Wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.” (The Wounded Healer)
Whatever the reason, I’m certainly not advocating that the answer is the continued delivery of news that has become the hallmark of the industry around the world.
But I do see a need for ongoing, deep and wise exploration of what exactly is the “alternative” that we as champions of the good or positive or healthful or generative or solutions-oriented or constructive journalism are seeking to put in place.
I realize this new field, if you will, is still is its early days. We’re all still figuring stuff out here — things can seem thin and are definitely unproven.
But what is our theory of change — really? And how are we trying to go about manifesting that theory — really? Have we considered the potential unintended consequences of our approach?
My guess/hope is that we get clearer and clearer about all that stuff, our news will manifest that meaning and flavor and richness that makes people want to, if not binge on it, at least “eat” it in good, healthful, life-giving chunks — and not just because they know it’s good for them — but because they love it.
- More to Come
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