Please can we have some good news
Please can we have some good news
If you can't bear to watch or read the news, you're not alone.
Newly-published research shows that more than seven out of ten news publishers are concerned about increasing levels of 'news avoidance.'
More and more people are turning away from the news, because it's just too difficult to take. And that may present an opportunity for Christians to present our life-giving gospel message.
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has just published its 'Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2023' report, based on a wide-ranging survey of 303 news leaders in 53 countries. It explores the latest developments in journalism and the priorities for the year ahead.
One of its key conclusions is that, "This will be a year of heightened concerns about the sustainability of some news media against a backdrop of rampant inflation, and a deep squeeze on household spending."
Against this background, less than half of the people surveyed expressed confidence about the year ahead and around a fifth expressed low levels of optimism.
One area of deep concern was increasing levels of 'news avoidance' with 72 per cent of publishers worried about the phenomenon. Many readers and viewers were avoiding news, especially, says the report "around important but often depressing topics like Ukraine and climate change." Only 12 per cent of publishers said they were not worried.
The publishers proposed a range of responses, with many favouring producing more 'explainer' items putting the news into context. Others intended to produce more Q&A-style articles. Around two-thirds said they were considering more 'inspirational stories' telling how people had overcome or achieved despite setbacks and adversity.
Less than half of the publishers were considering "producing more positive news" as a way of keeping their readers and viewers engaged.
Does this widespread 'news avoidance' have any message for the Church and for Christians generally?
Well, maybe two.
The first is for ourselves. How guilty are we of scrolling past bad news on our social media feed, switching off the TV or radio, or pausing a podcast when the subject matter becomes tough to take?
I'm all for agreeing with Swiss author Rolf Dobelli, who argued in his bestselling 2019 book, 'Stop Reading the News,' that "News is to the mind what sugar is to the body." He recommended a careful diet of news, encouraging people to be discerning with what they read, to limit their news 'intake' and to focus on deeper, more authoritative reporting.
But it's also important for Christians to be aware of events and trends across the globe, to enable us to pray intelligently, and to be able to support organisations and people working to make the world a better place.
The second is about how we present our gospel message. We have 'good news' to proclaim, while we are living in a time when people are turning away from news of any kind, seeking instead to look for entertainment and distraction.
In our preaching, in our personal testimonies and in the wide range of ways that we communicate the gospel message of 'abundant life' through Jesus Christ, we are called to be positive and upbeat.
Our challenge is to present the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Christ and to show the difference that it makes in our lives.
One way is to present 'good news stories' of lives transformed by Christ's love, and another is to show the way Christians are working to improve the lives of people in their local communities.
During the Covid lockdown, the work of two Christian ministers in Burnley in northern England impacted TV viewers around the world. Mick Fleming and Alex Frost were serving some of the poorest people in the country and sharing in their pain. BBC TV reports brought their moving story to the attention of millions in Britain and overseas. They demonstrated Christian love in action.
In a world that is turning away from bad news, we have good news to offer. Our mission is to present this good news in ways that can catch the attention of a distracted world that's tired of the gloom and looking for something better.
Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England minister in St Albans, Herts, UK, and a former communications director with the CofE.