Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”:
- World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
- The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
- The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
- For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
- Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
- The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
- Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
- India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
- Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
- Black incarceration rates fell in the US
- Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
- An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
- Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
- China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
- Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
- Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
- The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
- Giant pandas are no longer endangered
- The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
- The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy
Researcher Jodie Jackson explains that by studying the impact of Positive News upon its readers, she found that constructive journalism can empower people and engage them more in society
The news tells us a story about the world in which we live. But we all know that it is not the whole picture. We are only ever presented with a small fraction of our world, but it is so enlarged it can appear to be the whole picture – and herein lies the problem. The stories that are amplified are the ones that are most extreme, most conflict-driven and most unusual, fitting our modern news mantra of “if it bleeds it leads”.
“The news is not, in fact, a reflection of everything that goes on in the world, it is a reflection of everything that goes wrong in the world”, wrote US academic John Sommerville in 1999.
Even though we may know it to be the case, we are not fully conscious of this distortion of reality the news creates. Instead, our minds are working away to respond to the information around us in ways that keep us safe and protected.
As my research points out, the psychological consequence of the skewed truth created by the negativity bias in the news can lead to a misperception of risk, in which people think that world is more dangerous than it is.
Continuously confronting an unresolved threat can lead to anxiety and a feeling of helplessness. It makes us more likely to become a passive observer of the world rather than a participant in it, leading to lower mood levels, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitisation to the issues being presented and potentially total disengagement . . .
Now, more than ever, is a good time to put the brakes on unbalanced, inflamed news narratives.
It appears we may have found a way to do this, which could not only halt the current media trajectory but launch a new one altogether. It is known as constructive journalism and solutions-focused news. . .
My research has found that people who read Positive News magazine were lifted by reading about possibility and progress. Secondly, they showed reduced levels of anxiety and helplessness, and thirdly they also showed increased levels of hope, optimism and self-efficacy – the belief that their actions were capable of making a difference.
Media has a powerful influence on our world. We believe excessive negativity in the press is destructive for society, so instead we are working to create a more constructive and compassionate media.