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The Bad News about the Good News


I came home from work today to take a break. I started messing with my watercolors and decided to multi-task a bit. If you've read this site lately, you know that I'm discontent with the amount of bad news that is always reported. How about some good news?

Last fall, in studying how the press reported on Kerry and on Bush, I did what I felt was as unbiased a study as I could possibly do. I built me a little engine that can harness the 500 most recent stories on Google News that mentioned Bush and Kerry in the same story. By doing such a thing, you see the same story several times because the AP or UPI feed is repeated by different news outlets. Therefore, the more outlets that carried the story, the bigger the footprint and the more well-known the story would be. My engine would show me a headline and the number of outlets that carried it.

What I found was that pro-Kerry/anti-Bush stories reached a much wider audience than pro-Bush/anti-Kerry stories.

I don't say that today to philosophize or sermonize; I say that as a means of background.

So in my effort to find "good news" stories, I remodeled my engine and let it rip. I did a search for the top 500 stories that had the phrase "good news" in them. Of those 500, only 2 stories are getting reported in 5 or more media outlets. (The column on the left is the headline and the column on the right is the number of outlets that carried that headline.)

GoogleNews Keywords: "good news"
Baseball Canada settles on Ernie Whitt as manager for World ...8
Marquez back for shaken Mexico6

Only two - and they're both sports stories. The rest of the 486 results for "good news" are more or less isolated and not widely covered. No truly big footprint for good news stories.

On a whim, I decided to see how "bad news" would fare...

GoogleNews Keywords: "bad news"
A Tech Trio's Hard Cell42
US confirms mad cow case; animal believed to have been born here12
Baseball Canada settles on Ernie Whitt as manager for World ...8
Narrative a cure to media's "AIDS fatigue"6
Yen Weakens; Record Oil Price May Hamper Japanese Recovery6
Hospital’s smoking ban shows a worrying lack of human kindness6

Much better. Bigger footprint. Obviously, bad news is more popular. (I also find it funny that Ernie Whitt's appointment by Baseball Canada shows up in both good news and bad.)

But I am determined. I'll tweak this little project when I'm done with the project at work.


Tags: media | politics
by Brett Rogers, 6/25/2005 4:23:07 PM


I hadn't seen you fall presidential news survey - sounds interesting.

I suspect you've discovered two traits that our media is known for: 1) oppositional reporting - where we go after anybody who is in power and 2) too much good news is out there, so only the bad news gets coverage.

I've subscribed to the Christian Science Monitor for about 10 years now and I have to say they have the most un-negative reporting of any news I've read. I say "un-negative" because it's not that they don't report when tragedy strikes, they just do it with a balanced perspective and avoid the chicken-little syndrome that most papers fall for.



Posted by Mikey, 6/27/2005 4:54:13 PM

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