If you are like me, you may be considering what you are digesting in your daily diet of news reports and headlines.
In contemporary reporting, we are bombarded with death, disaster, and the latest health hazard. Satellites have opened the airwaves to almost immediate visual record of what is happening throughout the world. After considering the news of the day, your ‘diet’ may be making you feel anxious or depressed.
No doubt there is an ethical dilemma here – telling the news in a compelling manner and in a competitive environment– but toning down the theatrics or sensationalism.
We all wish to keep informed of local and world events, but a more balanced report on the trials and progresses of mankind would be better for our health.
Since the 1800’s, yellow journalism has called for more enlightened media. The Christian Science Monitor has won its readership, including Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment, and its Pulitzers by striving to objectively report humanity’s challenges and successes. Media reporting that refuses to sensationalize while delivering facts, helps everyone find greater stability instead of planting frightening images that do no one any good.
Of concern are the various studies that illustrate how media reports about health hazards may trigger or amplify ‘nocebo’ effects in some people, brought about by unintended negative suggestion.
While this research tells us a lot about the effect on health of what we humanly think, is there a better way – other than tuning out the news – to counteract the fear and anxiety brought on by what we hear and read?
An important responsibility may lie with a change at the source – having balanced news reports devoid of the sensationalism and graphic images that fuel our fears.
Reporting of the Ebola virus outbreak in the African continent is an example of the need. Initial reports have sewn seeds of fear and confusion throughout the countries affected. Counter reports asking for calm in the face of this crisis have helped as physicians warn that physical symptoms can manifest from the media coverage of the disease.
The founder of the Monitor saw the problem: “The press unwittingly sends forth many sorrows and diseases among the human family. It does this by giving names to diseases and by printing long descriptions which mirror images of disease distinctly in thought… A minutely described disease costs many a man his earthly days of comfort.”
The good news is – news can be reported with hope, clarity, even-handedness and compassion – a more nourishing media diet, I am sure you will agree.
Each reader or even ‘newshound’ can nurture their news diet with stories that bring honesty and clarity, comfort and reconciliation to problems facing humanity. To contribute our thought towards a more balanced and compassionate view of mankind can influence the peace and goodwill, the health and wholeness of the world.
This article was published in various online Metroland media papers such as York Region.