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I’ve finally caught up on my backlog of podcasts. For the longest time, I’d have half a day’s worth of podcasts sitting on my iPod waiting for me to have time to listen to them. I got tired of the anxiety that comes with having something out there not having been done and decided to do something about it. I worked on the supply side by going through and pruning some of the podcasts that weren’t consistently great as well as working on the consumption side by finding opportunities to listen to podcasts that weren’t there (I became more attentive to turning on the podcasts while farming in WoW; walking a half-hour or so home on days when I wasn’t driving the car poll also helped significantly with this). Now, I find I run into the case where I have finished my podcasts and turn over to listen to the radio from time to time. Last week, I heard one of the local morning shows discussing the fact they had their news cast for Friday consist solely of “Good News”, news that was generally positive in nature. There were several calls supporting this move and asking that it continue. The one thing mentioned by the person who read the news was the difficulty in actually finding good news that was interesting. This difficulty in actually finding positive news may be a large reason why it isn’t done very often. It’s also a significant challenge to present the same story from a new angle. With bad news, there’s a lot more of it, it tends to be more gripping and there always seems to be an infinite variety in the ways bad stuff can and does happen. Having been a student of media for quite a while, there’s a reason people come back to bad stories: they are unresolved and people want to know what happens next. With good stories, the story is generally setup and resolved in the course of the single story. Let’s look at two typical stories cliff’s notes style, one good and one bad. Good: “Habitat for Humanity was able to complete five new homes for needy families this weekend. They’re very happy and will be moving in next week.” This is a typical feel good story. Something good happened for someone and everyone goes away happy. There could be a follow-up to the story showing the people moving in and a few weeks or months later seeing how they are doing in their new homes, but this is a long-term follow up and doesn’t help a reporter finding their lead story for tomorrow. Also, positive stories are difficult to frame in a compelling fashion within the allotted time for a typical news cast (generally 2-3 minutes). Shows like Extreme Home Makeover do this “good stuff happens to good people” story very well because they can set up the back story about why the people are good and why they should have good stuff happen to them. But they have 44 minutes (plus commercials). Newscasters have 240 seconds. And they have to make up a new “story” each time, there’s not necessarily a pre-made “script” to work from when formulating the story. Now, onto our other made up story. Bad: “Gunmen rob grocery store. Steal car for getaway. Crash while driving on Interstate running from cops.” Typical news story. You have the interview with one of the grocery store cashiers. You interview the person who got their car stolen. You have the helicopter footage of the fire and police departments cleaning up the crash. You may have mug shots of the perps that you can pepper in during the story. But, more importantly, you’ve got follow up stories. If this happened before the newscast, you can talk about the progress of the clean-up of the accident during the newscast. The next day you can talk to the parents of the suspects to get some back story. Next week you can talk about the arraignment. If someone was injured or killed, you can talk about their recovery or funeral. In the coming months you can talk about the trial. If there’s a conviction for a killing, you can also report on the execution, if there is one. If not, the parade of news stories from this single incident tends to end here. If a reporter does it right, there’s a stable of continuing stories they keep revisiting many times and still have “fresh” news all stemming from a single incident. All they have to do is listen to the police scanner, jump in the news van and start following the script. It’s the same script that’s been out there since Dragnet came out and just got updated with the times through CHiPs, Homocide: Life on the Streets and Law and Order. We all know it and the reporters can use the shorthand built up over decades of police procedurals to tell the story faster as well as condition viewers about what will come next in the story progression. In general, reporters (and news producers) tend to go with the past of least resistance. A lot of reporters want to get the story, fulfill their on-screen obligations, get their paycheck and go home to spend time with their family. It’s not that they’re bad reporters for going with the bad news angle, it’s just that they’re human. . . and, until we start to have robo-reporters, I can’t fault them for that.