Years ago when I was drafted to be on The Lima News speaking tour, I would bring along one of my favorite copies of the newspaper’s front page when meeting with groups.
Two-thirds of the right side of this newspaper carried a story about a complete stranger donating a kidney to a man in need of a transplant. In effect, she saved his life.
The other third on the left side was about a brutal murder.
I would pass around the newspaper at the beginning of the talk and tell the group we would get back to it later. After speaking and answering questions for 30 to 40 minutes, I would bring up that front page again just before the luncheon was about to end, asking the group what they remembered about it.
Most talked about the brutal murder. A few mentioned the transplant story.
My point was to try to answer the accusations people make about the media being so negative. It’s not that the media doesn’t tell positive stories, I noted. Maybe people just find bad news more interesting than good news.
I bring this up because a new study released this month by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that same thing. The study involved more than 1,000 people across 17 countries spanning every continent but Antarctica. It found, on average, that people do indeed pay more attention to negative news than to positive news.
Lead author Stuart Soroka, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, told the Los Angeles Times that he and his colleagues were interested in the psychology of negativity biases — the tendency for people to pay more attention to negative information than positive information — and the role it might play in shaping the news.
“Our suspicion was that the way news looked wasn’t purely a function of what journalists felt but more about what audiences responded to,” Soroka said.
However, he cautioned that doesn’t mean people want their plates filled with negative news each day. Folks also like their desserts, and positive news can be a sweet treat. Furthermore, paying attention to negative news can also be an effective survival strategy for people. It’s much riskier to ignore negative information (a storm is coming) than good news (a dog rescued a boy from a tree), researchers pointed out.
All that said, we have a question for you:
What story in The Lima News had you talking the most last week: A story about a 99-year-old grandmother riding a horse for the first time, or was it the story about a man stealing a semi-truck cab and threatening to go on a killing spree?
You don’t have to answer that.
I think we know what most of you would say.
ROSES AND THORNS: Make room for a long list of heroes in the rose garden.
Rose: To 911 dispatchers and law enforcement officers who kept a man who stole a semi-truck cab from ramming a school bus and going on a killing spree.
Rose: To 9-year-old Paislyn Metzger, who estimated that it would take “four thousand years” for her to eat all the candy she gathered during the annual Labor Day parade.
Rose: To former Columbus Grove resident Craig Schmersal, who was one of eight people featured on the reality TV show, “The Last Cowboy.”
Thorn: To Benjamin Appiah, 29, of Columbus. He tried to flee Delphos police and was caught when he fell into the Miami Erie Canal. Police were pursuing him after being tipped off by postal authorities that he was claiming to be a Delphos resident and was trying to make off with the man’s mail.
PARTING SHOT: Some people are great at multitasking. They can waste time, be unproductive and procrastinate all at once.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.