The newspaper vendor is an eagerly awaited man every morning. But that’s by sheer force of habit I guess—we’ve been conditioned to see our parents, and their parents before that, enjoying the morning cup that cheers with the newspaper—because the newspapers of today do not really give any cause for such joyous expectancy.
Bizarre though it may sound, newspapers are actually injurious to our (mental) health. And you don’t even have to wonder why. Check out Page 1 of any daily any day and you will be badgered with news of terrorist activities / natural disasters / horrific accidents / puke-inducing crimes / scams and frauds, growing economic woes, etc that have jolted the nation in the last 24 hours. Move on to the next page and you have a smaller edition of similar fare on a local level. In other words, one bad news after another strung together to make a noose to be tightened around your neck to squeeze out any vestige of joy left in your heart—almost as if to say, “Hey, how dare you feel happy and contented when there are so many bad things happening all around you?” When you have survived these pages can you hope for some respite in the entertainment or sports pages. But glamour is a poor substitute for gravitas and it is the latter which forms the staple diet of avid newspaper readers! So what does the reader do? Suffer from an acute case of acidity and indigestion every morning? Yes, more or less.
But why is the situation so pathetic? Don’t good things ever happen any more, or do newspapers have a self-imposed ban on writing about them? Well, I will answer the question as best as I understand it. For one thing, the world is not such a miserable place as journalists will have us believe. Good things happen along with the bad ones but newspapers have a long-standing prejudice for using bolder and larger print for the bad news and smaller font for the good tidings. Why? Because they have been conditioned to behave like vultures—you know, swoop in on death, disaster and destruction. They know that death will sell better than development and give them wider coverage! They feel almost morally bound to find chinks in the armour of the establishment and report them faithfully to make the public aware of how it is being hoodwinked. And the more sensational the reporting, the more copies sold— is the firm belief of media behemoths.
But you know what, it is the good news which really keep us—the news-reading public—going. Happy tidings renew our faith and belief in the basic goodness of human nature; they have a feel-good quality which palliates our panic and keeps us from coming unstuck… That doesn’t mean that newspapers should ignore or trivialise traumatic events, because that would be a head-in-the-sands approach. I simply wish that all news are kept in proper perspective. Like, when we read about scams, more scams, and then some, we react with impotent rage, right? Maybe that rage could’ve been mollified a little had the print media also mentioned a couple of those people who refused to be bribed (and they too definitely do exist). See what I mean? A kind of balance between the savoury and the unsavoury, you know.
Journalists come up with catchy captions and sensational headlines to grab the readers’ eyeballs and ensure that they don’t stray to rival tabloids, and thus often blow a news item totally out of proportion. Therein lies the danger because most readers are gullible enough to believe as gospel truth whatever is written in their favourite newspaper! Hence, proper presentation of a news item is of the utmost importance here. Newspapers should refrain from insulting the readers’ intelligence by upholding lopsided priorities. And some positive stories (for example, regarding civic issues, economic development, human interest, unbelievable feats of science and technology and so on) on the front page could make for a day’s good beginning, don’t you think?