😑 The fear mongering news media is ruining our society with anger and sadness

😑 The fear mongering news media is ruining our society with anger and sadness

Sorry about the angry headline, but I'm just following the trend. Over the last 20 years headlines in news media have turned more and more negative and angry.

Mathias Sundin
Mathias Sundin

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Sorry about the angry headline, but I'm just following the trend.

Angry headlines have increased dramatically in the last 20 years. So has headlines that with fear, sadness and disgust. Neutral headlines have decreased as well as headlines with joy.

In a new paper researchers David Rozado, Ruth Hughes and Jamin Halberstadt analyzed 47 million headlines in U.S. news media from 2000 to 2019. Over those 20 years, the headlines steadily have become more and more negative.

Both right-leaning and left-leaning news outlets have displayed increasing negative sentiment in their headlines since the year 2000. Centrist news
outlets use fewer negative headlines, but the trend is the same.

Fear in headlines has tripled

Headlines with fear in them have tripled. Headlines with anger have doubled. Disgust is up a third and sadness is up over 50 percent. Neutral headlines have decreased by 30 percent.

Headlines matter – a lot

We all know how much headlines matter. Often it is the only thing we read and react on. Even if we read the whole text, the headline sets the tone.

The headline also influences the virality of the text. "...content that evokes high arousal, such as text conveying an emotion of anger..." Β is spread more widely on social media.

News media is influencing the public mood

Just like a headline sets the tone of a text, news media sets the tone of society.

What they choose to report on, or not, influences our public mood, and in turn affects how we vote, spend our money, and what we talk about with our friends and neighbors.

The news media of course can't just make things up, but they can choose what they report on, how they word the headlines, and especially what they don't report on.

They also choose if they put an event in a historical perspective. When Covid-19 hit, the number of people living in extreme poverty increased. If that is the only thing reported that might confirm what many already believe, that extreme poverty is only getting worse. Instead, the fact is that hundreds of millions of people have left extreme poverty in the last few decades. That doesn't make the situation better for the people living under such dreadful circumstances, but it shows a more balanced view of the world.

The problem is that what they report on doesn't reflect or give a balanced view of what is happening in society. They choose to give much more space and headlines to the negative stuff. If you are old school and open a newspaper in the morning, the things there are mostly a summary of all the bad things that have happened over the last few days.

If they were to give a balanced view, there would be more good than bad things in the newspaper.

Sorry for the headline, but it is true

Again, sorry for the angry headline, but sadly enough it has truth in it. News media is making us – the public – much more pessimistic than we would have been if they had given us a balanced view.

Therefore the news media is responsible for some of the anger and hate we see in society.

That means they have a responsibility to change. It can't be the job of news media to present a false, super pessimistic view of the world. They should present a balanced view of bad and good.

A problem we can fix

No law of nature says the news media has to be like this. We can change them, and us. Because we all have a responsibility. They use more and more negative and angry headlines because it works. Because we click them and share them.

But they also think being a good journalist is the same as being negative. They think "this is too good to be true" but never "this is too bad to be true."

With Warp News and our fact-based optimistic news, we try to show that something else is possible. A different kind of journalism, that is also a successful business.

If we change news media to become more balanced, people, in general, would be more optimistic. That optimism would lead to faster progress and improve the lives of everyone and everything living on this planet.

Mathias Sundin

Check out our series Too bad to the true:

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