When I anchored the local news, we often ended our broadcast with a “kicker”. That’s TV news jargon for a “good news” story. Those light-hearted, last lines of the newscast allowed us to say goodbye with a smile. But, I always wondered why we couldn’t, in a typical newscast, devote a little more than those final 30 seconds to uplifting news. Was it hard to find? Was it unimportant? Did it make us look frivolous or too feature-oriented?
One day, I decided to broach the topic with one of the news consultants hired to analyze and "improve" our newscasts (and tell the anchors how to dress and talk). His answer was, “people actually prefer hearing about gloom and doom”. What? Really? Apparently our brains have a built-in negativity bias and we pay more attention to, and better retain, negative experiences. With this line of reasoning, bad news is good for the bottom line because it gets more attention, more views and more clicks. Personally, I think this is a bunch of #$%&*!
I spent 40 years as an Austin journalist, devoted to tackling hard news and covering major issues. I would NEVER downplay the importance of quality journalism and the goal of keeping people informed about vital news that impacts their lives. Seeking and reporting the truth is the highest calling of any journalist. I’m grateful I was given the time and space to report on important community issues for decades and even explore solutions. I’m especially proud of the in-depth, documentary-style journalism we presented during my tenure leading news at Austin PBS/KLRU.
But I’ve turned a page in my career and my life, and I am blessed to be able to plot my own path. I now have the freedom to tell the types of stories I’ve always wanted to tell, to shine the light on the best of humanity and help cultivate compassion in our community. That’s why my dear friend and former KXAN anchor, Leslie Rhode, and I started ATX Good News. She, too, has always felt the need to share more inspiring, uplifting stories. We joined forces and launched the ATX Good News project on Facebook and Instagram in January 2022.
Leslie and I are both passionate about positive storytelling. We hope ATX Good News is a way to use our talents to spread a little joy during a divisive, difficult time. Each week, we discover and share meaningful, memorable “good news” stories. They come from a variety of sources; social media, emails, news releases, friends, followers and other trusted news outlets...the traditional ways reporters find stories. One of our recent favorites: the Austin teenager attending language school in Berlin who is making hundreds of hot tacos each week to feed hungry Ukrainian refugees pouring into the train station there.
Good news doesn’t always have to be relegated to the final few seconds of a newscast as an afterthought or a series of throw-away lines. Perhaps with more positive perspectives and goosebump-raising videos, we can fight the negativity bias that’s apparently infecting our brains. Who knows? Maybe we can even learn to love and expect daily doses of inspiring news stories that leave us happy and hopeful. A girl can dream…
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