Why bad news is bad news – and how Silicon Valley needs to drill down to local

This is a telling observation:

The article the tweet links to prefaces its discussion thus:

A growing body of evidence illustrates the human tendency to prioritise negative over positive news content. But why is this? Stuart Soroka suggests that humans may neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information.

It’s hardly counter-intuitive, now is it?  Bad news warns us; good news snuggles us down.  You don’t want to be snuggled down in the presence of a person-eating beast.

And if you are, that’s the cave-painting equivalent of curtains.  If they ever existed.

But just because bad news is good news for primitive survival doesn’t mean it’s good news for civilisation.

There’s a lot of this “we have to do it, because … we have to do it” going around at the moment.  This Fortune article on the absorbing of Re/code is just one such example of this mindset with respect to journalism.  Amongst a number of interesting issues, it mentions Facebook’s courting of news orgs.  So why allow Facebook to define your distribution paradigms?  Why drop your content into the hole that is their walled garden?  Well … because!  And basically, because … what else is there on the horizon?

I dunno.  I’m really not sure that the TINA approach (“there is no alternative” – remember Thatcher?  No you don’t, my dear blissful eighteen-year-old) isn’t just either lazy conceptualisation or lazy thinking somewhere further down the line.

I’m pretty sure we need to stop, right now: stop saying TINA; stop saying journalism must say yes to every contravening of its principles, because it’s better to be fatally contravened than non-practising.

As if these were the only two alternatives.  It’s almost as if the lazy thinking goes so far as to suggest we have an illness – a bipolarity – which only a big, juicy, gorgeously tainted resource such as Silicon Valley can ever help to resolve.

But it’s not true.

Silicon Valley has its place, it’s true – and it’s done tons of wonderful stuff.  But it needs to be open to learning, like the rest of us: and it’s time it learnt to drill down to local.


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