What Have We Learned (WHWL) is a weekly column that examines what will endure after the Covid-19 pandemic ends. It asks what positive can we extract from the negative experience of this contagion? And, it answers that question with this simple truth: The best way to recover from a crisis is to focus on the knowledge we have gained while passing through it.
So, What Have We Learned from the Covid-19 pandemic: Good news is as important as any biological vaccine.
Okay, I admit it. I regularly engage in the consumption of traditional media. That’s right, I read a daily print newspaper and I often watch a network news program.
I engage in such behavior because I want to be informed, of course, and also because I believe in the importance of a free press. It keeps politicians and elected officials, corporate executives and financiers honest by questioning, investigating and shining a spotlight on their behavior. A free press keeps the rest of us free by exposing corruption and cronyism, power grabs and prejudice.
That’s the textbook definition of the institution, but in my experience, it’s also how journalists and reporters see their role. They believe they have a sacred duty to give you and me the truth about what’s happening in the country (notwithstanding that these days, there are several versions of the facts). They are, in their view, the ultimate check on absolute power and, as a consequence, a key protector of our democratic society.
It is a role they take very seriously, which is what makes their recent shift in focus so unusual. Undoubtedly, this new tack is a response to the endlessly dreary news about the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is nevertheless a radical change in what they are reporting. Instead of concentrating exclusively on misdeeds and deranged behavior, they are also celebrating good deeds and inspirational behavior.
Now, the cynic in me thinks they’re doing this because they know that the rest of us crave a little happiness right now, so it’s good for their ratings. But to be fair, I think there’s another, and maybe even more important factor at work. Those in the press have (finally) realized that they play a second and equally vital role in our democratic society. Yes, it’s their job to keep us informed so we can preserve the security and goodness of our society, but it’s also their job to remind us of our best selves so we can steady our morale and reinforce our self-confidence. In a very real sense, good news is as important to our wellbeing as any biological vaccine.
So, an article about school children coloring Get Well cards for the ill residents of a nursing home is just as important as an investigation of insider trading by a Wall Street firm. A news segment about a local restaurant calling its laid off employees back to work to prepare meals for the nurses and docs at a local hospital is just as central to the preservation of our democracy as a report on misspending by a government agency.
It’s sad that it took a pandemic for the press to recognize this responsibility. It’s depressing that we had to endure Covid-19 to break them of the conviction that only the worst of human behavior is newsworthy. But at least it happened. Almost every day now, we’re getting an injection of good news in our life. And that’s helping to make us better. Let’s hope it continues once the coronavirus is licked.
Food for Thought,
WHWL is written by TAtech CEO, Peter Weddle. To read his most recent columns on:
• The Right Stuff is Required, The Best Stuff Has Impact, click here.
• We Should All Don an N95 Mask before Going Online, click here.