People who love to read physical newspapers often cite "discovery" as one of the advantages over the Internet. Your eye scans the entire page and you notice interesting items that you wouldn't have otherwise known about. The problem is that many of those interesting items are total downers. Most news involves unpleasantness of one sort or another, so the more you see of it, the unhappier it makes you.

This got me wondering how the Internet handles all the bad news, since I see headlines many times a day online and never come away feeling sad. Today's news headlines on yahoo.com were interesting because they are mostly couched in upbeat terms.

  • McCain, Obama plunge into 5-month general election '08 race

  • Clinton: 'I am committed to uniting our party

  • Group: Somalia is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in a decade

  • Fire may cost Universal Studios tens of millions

  • United Airlines reportedly plans to ground 737s, 747s to save fuel

  • Astronauts to fix international space station's broken toilet

  • World War II veteran, 83, graduates from Texas high school

  • NBA Finals Stanley Cup MLB French Open NFL Olympics

The toilet on the space station isn't "still broken"; it's being fixed! Clinton didn't lose a primary in which she stayed too long; she's uniting the party! United Airlines isn't in a death spiral that begins by grounding lots of airplanes; they are saving fuel! And that feisty 83-year old World War II veteran is graduating high school! And hey, what about those sports!

Even Yahoo couldn't fix the headline about Somalia, but there are no photos on the home page. And "humanitarian crisis" sounds much better than starving by the truckloads. It seems like maybe the problem could be fixed with good paperwork.

I wonder if anyone has studied whether the Internet has generally more upbeat takes on the news compared to physical newspapers.

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Jul 27, 2008
I read a report that stated the top 10 Internet news sites (yahoo, google, cnn, etc.) tend to mirror the same depressing coverage that isseen on the nightly news. There are some sites that are starting to focus more on positive media. One that I like best is Champoli (www.champoli.com).

It will be interesting to see if this is a new category that starts to take off, or if the traditional media starts to "get it" and reduce the amount of sensationalized headlines, biased coverage, and generally negative bias.
Jun 17, 2008
As a newspaper journalist, and a rather sunshiney one at that, I hate when people tell me that all we ever print is doom and gloom. It's not my fault that the majority of news out there is negative. When the city I cover wastes tax payer dollars on credit cards to pay for their own lunches, I would love to write a story telling you that it's a happy day because there is such an abundance of tax dollars that no one will miss a few thousand dollars on some margaritas and Hooters dinners. If people want to live in a perpetual state of bliss and ignorance, move to Disney World, buy a lifetime supply of opium and smoke it while you ride constantly through "It's a Small World" hour after hour.
Jun 8, 2008
Good thought provoing blog this time.

The newspapers are struggling to stay in business. They are cutting cost and raising subscription and advertising rates dramatically. Some Sunday editions are now over $3.00. The paper is physically shrinking, the ads and inserts dominate, the type is getting smaller, the articles and content are less and less and the ink is getting dimmer. Fewer doorsteps on my block have papers there in the morning.

The reasons for the news media’s decline are many but mainly it is because of the TV and the Internet. You can pick up a paper and will rarely see, except for local items, things you have not already seen on MSN, Google, Yahoo and other browsers or news sites. Cyberspace has much better coverage, videos, more pictures and they are all up to the minute and fresh, Everyone’s home page on their computer has all the weather, news, market condition, favorite cartoons (Dilbert of course) email and contact with the outside world instantaneously and archived.

Us old folks still buy the paper but it is mostly to just have something to read with our coffee, while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or other such “I am stuck here” moments. It is lucky if it lives long enough to line the bottom of the bird cage.

The quality of the writing and reporting has slipped substantially with the influx of new journalism majors that all took the same teachers and courses. The cookie cutter news pieces are boringly standardized. You can see formula written all over them.

In search of readers, circulation and advertising dollars the editors have no shame in over dramatizing the headlines and grossly misrepresenting the actual content of the piece. At the end of the item the reader feels betrayed and vows not to be sucked in again.

Many of the mainstay papers like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and others are stooping to National Enquirer style stories, titillating and looking the other way at verification of the veracity and truthfulness of the content. They never apologize to any extent for errors, misinformation or plain yellow journalism. They are money-making businesses and have really lost the heart and soul of the press of yonder years.

Sad, but the print media are dinosaurs and headed for the bone yard. TV news reporting is getting there also with many of the same ills. Good books and artistic no-violent movies are scarce because they are not bankable.

But even the Internet is now showing some of the signs of being robotized and is getting overblown with hype. A search on Google for “George Washington” produces 30.6 million hits but most end up asking for your credit card number. Maybe on page 5,000 there will be some intelligent, accurate and historically significant information about this icon founding father. Google and Yahoo have sold out.

Solution? Go back to the classics, read the Bible and/or make up your own stories? Don’t know, but maybe there is still hope for a better future as the human spirit is indomitable.

Jun 5, 2008
The funny thing is, I and apparently most of my friends love real newspapers for the "feeling and/or smell of fresh paper".

Apparently, in some parts of Germany the genuine feel of dead trees is much better than the news itself.
Jun 5, 2008
Pretty sure NotThisGod was making a joke. Somehow I'm not surprised you didn't get it.
Jun 5, 2008
I am astonished at how an active blog comments section could be turned so stale simply by registration and turning off cuss words.

What cretinous, useless, negligible tosser (acronym) decided on that policy? See you next thursday...
Jun 5, 2008
Nothing travels faster than bad news (building a spaceship on that basis proved unsuccessful because wherever you arrived with it, you were never welcome says Douglas Adams), so with the old media that was neccessary to get the message to the reader fast. The internet has made that artificial downbeating unneccessary because of its own speed advantage - now the natural optimistic character of the idiots featuring in all those news can remain in its original state.
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Jun 5, 2008
Nah, the papers seem to have a solid behaviour pattern which has emerged over time - negative news headlines sell more copy (even though they're basically on the way out).

Perhaps there's a lingering link between internet users and being more upbeat in general - adopters of new tech aren't paranoid old farts who want to confirm their negative world view.

Plus, I suppose the economics of "selling" a website are different. Although you sell ad space in newspapers, it's not their only source of revenue...
Jun 4, 2008
Scott's Posts Have Potential for Improvement!
Jun 4, 2008
Not quite what has been asked, but related: automatically finding happiness (and sadness) on the web:

Jun 4, 2008
Holy Shi'it, it worked.
Jun 4, 2008
Who cares about the news, that's for geeks.

My comments are now going to be creative ways to leave cuss words in the comments.

I hope you don't mind. Sometimes you just have to say "What the FFuucccckkkkk"
Jun 4, 2008
make the monkeys dance - like only you can ...
Jun 4, 2008
I think there is also probably a level of insulation when reading news online. When you read a newspaper there is something tangible that you touch and smell, so the news "feels" more real, when your reading something online it is no more real than that video game you were playing 5 minutes earlier. So I think you could run the same headlines online that you do in a newspaper and find that people reading the articles online are slightly happier than those reading the paper.

Also when reading an article online you can simply hit the back button to avoid the disturbing story and then you never are bothered by it again, whereas in a newspaper since most articles are continued later in the paper you are bound to run across the same article again thus reminding you of the bad news all over again.
Jun 4, 2008
Somehow I'm not surprised that Fox News reports using Barack's middle name.

Jun 4, 2008
"I wonder if anyone has studied whether the Internet has generally more upbeat takes on the news compared to physical newspapers."

I think you just did. Now submit an RFP and get that million dollar grant to do it right!
Jun 4, 2008
Maybe it depends where on the internet you get your news?

I'd expect a site called Yahoo! to present the news in a more upbeat manner. Their branding geniuses don't want you to associate a happy word like (and therefore their company) "Yahoo!" with "Whoa. Bummer."

Of course I'd have the exact opposite expectation for anything I find on The Drudge Report.
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Jun 4, 2008
Hi Scott,

I think it has more to do with your point of view. You are an optimist. I look at most of those headlines and read doom and gloom or at least a fair amount of unpleasantness. Not that I am a pessimist, I just quickly attach judgments to the headlines. I don't care for politics and am sick of hearing about fuel prices.

I would bet most of those headlines come straight from news services and have to be mostly factual, the sites or papers that use them can alter them if they choose.

Why the hell are we still playing hockey in June?

Jun 4, 2008
I went to the fox news website and saw those exact headlines but with a slightly different take.

* McCain, B. Hussein Obama plunge into 5-month general election '08 race
* Clinton: 'Obama hates America'
* Flames burn through millions at Universal Studios
* United Airlines in a death spiral
* Astronauts near breaking point as the broken toilet catastrophe continues
* 83 year old dropout finally gets his act together

I guess it just depends on where you read your news.

Jun 4, 2008
The internet is written (mostly) by unpaid bloggers. I could be miserable and write depressing stories all the time if someone was paying me for it, but not on my own time.
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