Bad News

I’ve been reading Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, a fascinating read, and I’m expounding on a few ideas I found there.
Have you noticed a problem with the news? It’s always bad. The latest horrible crime, the terrifying downturn in the market, the new depressing statistic, the next company going under, it’s so bad! All the bad news affects our thinking, it colors our picture of the world. It’s important to note that news rarely tells a complete story, and never covers the whole story. The stories we get through news outlets may be accurate but they’re missing things. For instance, the news will delve into the details of the latest horrifying plane crash but will never mention the number of successful flights which landed that day. And why would they? Successful flights are boring, they happen all the time. News outlets need drama, they need to get people to engage. So they find the most dramatic, depressing, terrifying, sad stories available. So what are we supposed to think? Seems like the world is pretty bad right?
The problem with good news is that’s it’s mostly boring. Good things often happen slowly, progressively, not in big leaps or bounds, not in dramatic newsworthy type events. That’s not because they don’t happen, they just happen in ways we don’t notice as much. They’re not engaging or dramatic. So we get bad news, which is a shame because bad news is depressing and tends to give us an inaccurate portrayal of the world. Rosling gives the example of crime rates. Most people in the developed world believe that crime is on the rise, a natural belief based on the terrible crime stories we’re exposed to in the news. In 1990, approximately 14.5 million crimes were reported, by the end of 2016 the number was down to 9.5 million despite a growing population. Not only is crime down, it’s way down. Rosling notes that we shouldn’t just be okay with crime when we understand that it’s decreasing, but we can stop stressing about our false assumptions. The crime situation is still bad, but also much better.
So next time you tune into the news, just remember what you’re getting. It’s bad, but it’s not the whole picture. They say no news is good news, that sounds about right.

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