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Being Positive in a Negative Situation: Leadership

Deviating from our usual practice, here’s an op-ed from our editor-in-chief. 

I recently came across this statement on LinkedIn: “Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s LEADERSHIP”.

In a nutshell, that’s what The Good Times is all about. Finding the positive in life, and even in negative situations. As is often heard in times of hardship or when disasters strike, adversity draws people together. People help each other. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard probably put it best: “Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life’s relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth.”

Everyone has difficult moments. Many know terrible circumstances and yet get through them. The news we read, see on TV and hear on the radio is often negative to the extreme: thousands of people dead in a hurricane or typhoon, many more killed and harmed during a genocide, gang wars terrorizing and scarring inhabitants in the favelas, and the list is infinite. I need to know these events happen. I need to know the facts. But what does this simple knowledge bring me? What have I gained from knowing that a ferry disaster off South Korea killed 250 teenagers? Regret, certainly. But from my vantage point on the other side of the planet, that’s unfortunately all. “Unfortunately” because there’s nothing I can do from here. Right?

What if that accident could bring me knowledge I could act upon. What if the news coverage stressed not just the disaster but the humane acts of courage and assistance and rescue that inevitably occurred during the incident. That would bring me not only reassurance but perhaps, more importantly, information on what to do in drastic situations to survive, to help those around me if I am able to do so. People do and can assist others during disasters. Those are the things we need to hear more about. Those are the stories that will teach us something, even if we might never have the occasion to put that knowledge into practice.

If journalism is “a method of inquiry and literary style that aims to provide a service to the public by the dissemination and analysis of news and other information” [based on author and journalism educator Tony Harcup], then its service to mankind has been overtaken by the desire to sell information and, to do so, to sensationalize it to increase circulation. The facts are no longer what’s important. Commentary and opinion have taken over. There’s a place for that, too, but today the commentary and opinion are often interwoven with the facts. The reader (or viewer or listener) has difficulty distinguishing between the two. Speculation, too, is treated as factual news. Situations as they develop are broadcast, but what is the significance? No one knows yet.

So what if the media were to show greater leadership. What if the journalists and broadcasters out there were to put service to the public first. That service would consist not just of recounting the facts, but of ensuring the audiences learn from the facts. What could have been done differently during the accident or natural catastrophe, how could the stronger have helped the weaker, what facts do most people not know that could have alleviated the situation? That’s the type of social intelligence that will help leaders emerge in a negative situation and inspire them to act. Those who will have been informed of what to do or how to assist will be better equipped to confront the situation and mitigate misery. They will have been empowered, even just a little bit.

It’s time for the media to guide objectively, to teach even, and thus to be of greater service while informing. It’s time for the media to stress the positive and not just to report the negative when covering an event or subject. It’s time for the media to show leadership.

“Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.” — Aristotle

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the inspirational words. What if media were to show greater leadership as described? I for one would read more in the news than just the headlines if the headlines were not so bleak. And thus I would learn so much more.

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