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The Fallen, The Trends and The Media

Written by on December 12, 2015

I came across the wonderful video below, which visualizes just how many people (both soldiers and civilians) who died during the Second World War. It's quite an eye-opener.

The casualties from Russia and China, as well as civilian casualties who died due to each side deliberately bombing civilian targets? Oh.My.God!

But the reason I share this here is because of how the video ends. They end the video by looking at what has happened since the WWII, and the trends are fascinating.

The world is getting safer and safer. And the risk for anyone to die as the result of a conflict has never been lower than what it is today.

But is that the image you get when you read the newspapers?

No.

Over the years, the combination of instant publishing online (which causes newspapers to publish 30 articles about each thing instead of just one) with the optimization for constant pageviews, has caused our news to shift towards a hyper focus on every bad thing in life, in excruciating detail.

As such, people are now more scared than ever about the world as a whole. In the US, the NYT asked 5,000 people about their fears of being shot, and the result was scary to say the least, bordering on extreme paranoia.

As the media, being the fourth estate, we have a responsibility to do three things. We have a responsibility to inform. We have a responsibility to raise important questions that threatens our society. But we also have a responsibility to enlighten the public.

But this last element has been increasingly forgotten, and the result is disastrous. Not only do we see that more and more of the public is acting on false, misleading or completely distorted world views. The problem is also that the media is doing the same.

Let me give you an example. Ask a journalist to write about Nigeria, and the first thing that comes to their mind is 'Boko Haram'.

This is, of course, an important issue. But it's not even close to as important as looking at the extremely positive transformation that Nigeria as a whole is going through.

Think about it like this. The changes to our climate is a far bigger problem than terrorism, and to solve the climate problem we need to look towards the future, the people who inspire, and those who make a difference.

And yet, when we look at what people are focusing on, we see that terror dominates in the extreme, and the remaining climate articles aren't really about finding the solutions.

This is a clear example of how the media isn't living up to its role of providing enlightenment.

I see this with so many newspapers. The result is always the same with every single study I have seen about how people feel about the news. People's confidence in that 'the news is providing the right perspective' is way down.

People no longer trust that newspapers will provide them with an accurate view of the world as a whole.

And I see the same when I talk with newspapers about their future strategy. When I suggest they need to focus on a more analytical, data-rich and positive approach, it often feels like I'm talking to a wall. It's like the newsroom doesn't even know what a positive story is anymore. The focus is always on finding and reporting about the problem, regardless of how insignificant that may be.

This needs to change. When I look at the trends and the future of news, this problem is one of the top reasons why the old world of news is failing. It's not the only reason, of course, but it's one of the important ones.

Remember, as the fourth estate, our role is to inform, question and enlighten. And in a connected world where news is coming from anywhere. The last one is probably the most important role of all.

As the author of this video says:

The longer the 'long peace' grows, the more significant it becomes. So if watching the news doesn't make us feel hopeful about where things are heading. Watching the numbers might.

But watch the video. Is absolutely enlightening.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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