I was delighted to read Arianna Huffington’s post this weekend about how the Huffington Post changed its policies to present the news in a more balanced light.
A Happier Huffington is welcome news.
I’ve written several times about the fact that the news does not report to inform, but to get ratings, in several posts on LinkedIn and on my website, Happiness1st.com, including this post on how worry is killing you–unnecessary worry. Research in the past showed the media that ratings improve when people are frightened. I’ve seen the direct research and Bernard Goldberg’s 2002 book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, clearly describes the bias inherent in media reporting.
Despite the well documented bias, most people say they watch the news to stay informed, not consciously recognizing that the news is very skewed toward the negative. There are far more things that go right in this world every moment than those that go wrong. The predominant view seems to be that the news provides an accurate portrayal of the reality of our world–a view that is factually inaccurate.
In my writing, I’ve been doing my best to educate individuals and organizations about the benefits of positivity and detriments of negativity (pessimism). Our bodies function far better when we are positively focused–so much so that positively focused individuals live, on average, 10 years longer and enjoy 18 healthier years because the debilitating end of life diseases come much sooner to negatively focused individuals.
Doesn’t make sense, you say? That is only because the research on how positivity and negativity affects the body has not reached mainstream awareness yet. The sooner the better, if you ask me. Our bio-physical processes are directly affected by our mood. Immune function, cognitive function, digestive function, mental health, and neurological function are all optimized by a positive emotional state and become dysfunctional when an individual experiences more negative emotions.
In my first non-fiction book, True Prevention–Optimum Health: Remember Galileo, I detail the link between health and emotional state and provide techniques that help individuals change to a more positive focus. In my first novel, Shades of Joy, I write at length about the potential for class action attorney’s to find fertile ground using the negative bias of the news and the known detrimental effects of negativity–which are worse than the impact of smoking cigarettes. Shades of Joy is currently with the editor and will be out later this year. I have been attempting to get legislators to introduce a safe harbor against such suits contingent on the media no longer taking advantage of the negative bias and providing public service announcements to educate the public about positivity and programs that teach the public how to benefit from the new knowledge.
Stress and happiness are two ends of the same continuum. In this post, I wrote about the potential liability to employers from this knowledge, which it can be argued they should know. I think the media has a similar potential liability.
Apparently the old paradigm about negative news selling, “If it bleeds, it leads,” has a flaw in an era when sharing of stories has a tremendous effect on their reach. New research has shown that we share more stories that make us feel good than those that make us feel bad. That is good news all around. As far as I know, Arianna Huffington is the first major news supplier to recognize this and adjust the policies of her organization to fit the new paradigm better. I hope others follow her lead.