Media gets a bad rep for focusing on the negative and sensational.
And it’s easy to see why. Most nightly news bulletins are a collage of car crashes, court cases and political shenanigans.
That’s because journalists are taught to focus on the unusual, poignant and interesting. There’s no news in the mundane workings of daily life.
But the other key skill that journalists learn is the power of human-interest stories. Nothing triggers our emotions or attracts our attention like hearing from the person who survived a tragedy or achieved unbeatable odds.
The media gives us that too. They provide us a powerful link to other people’s lives and circumstances, if only for a few seconds or column inches.
When we see the devastation on the faces of the family who return to the site of their home – now a pile of ash after a bushfire – we want to help them.
Likewise, right now, when we see those courageous health workers, donned in scrubs with masks and gloves, we want to thank them for putting their lives on the line to ensure our families and friends stay well. We want to honour them in some way.
And the media does a great job of that. It’s not often acknowledged for providing coverage of feel-good stories but they are all around us at the moment, from everyday hero stories about nurses helping to curb the spread of COVID-19 to neighbourhood kids buying groceries for elderly people on their street.
For those of us in PR, it’s a pleasant reminder of the power of the media to pull communities together and of journalists’ willingness to cover the feel-good amongst the doom and gloom.
Recently, Ramsay Health Care asked each of its private hospitals across the country to identify a local food business in their area that’s doing it tough from COVID-19 restrictions and to order staff meals from them to help them stay afloat. Some of the hospitals are doing this weekly with different businesses in their areas, and some are doing it as often as their budget – also affected by COVID-19 restrictions – allow.
The initiative has brought owners of catering companies, restaurants and cafes to tears because it means so much more to them than an order for 50 ham rolls. It reflects their value in their community and the willingness of others to help them survive.
Most of us will only ever learn of feel-good stories like these from the media. Journalists from north Queensland to Perth have been covering stories on Ramsay Health Care facilities supporting local cafes in their TV news bulletins and newspapers over the past fortnight. They too want to help those doing it tough and to showcase initiatives that are making a difference in their community.
The nightly news bulletin will still report the number of people who have died from COVID-19 – rather than those who have recovered – and they will continue to cover car crashes and court cases.
But amongst the doom and gloom are positive, feelgood, uplifting stories. With media, it cuts both ways.