Positives of Being Less Negative

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The day after the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur is the best day of the year for two reasons. First, since I had to fast the entire 24 hours before—no easy task for a cherubic individual like yours truly—I get to make up for lost time, guilt-free. Second and more importantly, having spent a day atoning for all my sins, I get a fresh start.

This year, one of my goals is to not always paint everything with a negative brush, whether in my life, with my overrated Vikings (oops, that didn’t last long) or as an editor of a magazine. If my fears are correct and this current economic “recovery” indeed is only rooted on Wall Street and not Main Street (sorry, I’m not a believer in such a thing as a jobless recovery), I will still try to accentuate the positives—such as the great innovations consistently taking place in our business.

And those who run local news—and cut the teases—could stand to follow my lead. I get the “if it bleeds, it leads” thinking, and have been known to slap a headline on my magazine’s cover that is a bit more trumped-up than the actual story suggests, but let’s all take a second once in a while and be mindful of tone.

There are times it’s downright tough to watch local news, especially in Los Angeles. First off, the weather is the same every day here and this is the worst sports town in the country, so those two draws are dead. But the actual news itself, not unlike any city around the country, is geared toward the sensational. And I get it: Local news is a business, and a challenged one, after all.

I don’t know how to write this and not sound Pollyanna-ish, but it’s true: Times are bad enough, and local news still has influence in setting the tone for many people’s lives. There is inherent responsibility there. So, can we keep that in mind and not make everything so damned negative all the time?

A perfect example happened last Wednesday night when the wife and I were watching Hellcats on The CW. And yes, she did have a very large pistol pointed at my head, demanding I watch.

Near the end, on came the promo for the upcoming 10 p.m. news, which featured a tease for a story about a female getting abducted and raped near a college campus, and then video of some cops (um, allegedly) pummeling a (um, alleged) suspect. I thought that gruesome tease was just wonderful in a show clearly targeted at young girls (you know, and men like me with guns pointed at their heads).

Funny thing is, if you actually stuck around and watched the news, you were given some light fare, in the form of inadvertent comedy. During what should have been a serious story on the abduction, the only people the station apparently could find to interview were a group of three young ladies who a) hadn’t even heard about the crime, and b) smiled and almost laughed through their interviews, barely able to contain their glee about being on TV as they told the reporter they couldn’t believe something like this could happen. I wasn’t sure if they meant the crime or that the news station actually aired the interviews.

I don’t mean to pick on one station, because the same thing goes on everywhere. And I’m not (completely) stupid: Light and fluffy fare doesn’t make for great teases, much less ratings. But news directors do still set the rhythms for many people’s evenings.

I know shows like the early Katie Couric iterations on CBS, Nightline and the morning shows like the Today show all have been trashed for being too soft at times in tone. But at least they aren’t always so focused on the negative that I want to kill myself.

Then again, if I did—as long as I did it in a scandalous or sensational fashion—most local news directors (and I’m guessing more than a few of my readers) probably wouldn’t mind at all.

E-mail comments to bgrossman@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman

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