Good news, bad news

Over my career I've heard people decry the preponderance of "bad news" in the media, but no where is that complaint heard loudest but in the technology industries. What is interesting, however, is no one can actually give a definition of bad news other than there was once a story that portrayed their company or technology in a bad light. In other words, it didn't exactly line up with what the CEO want the article to say.

Last week, we had a long conversation on the blog with Ry Schwark of Mentor Graphics who complained that start ups in his industry got the lion's share of the coverage in trade publications (which isn't true except in his own perception) but that too can be considered "bad news" in some circles.

This weekend, while standing in line at Safeway I picked up an issue of Newsweek with the subhead "The real media bias." The article inside stated that what the media is really biased toward is not political, but in favor of conflict. Regardless of what you believe, Newsweek makes a good point. I logged on to (the SF Chronicle site) and took a look at the articles on the front page and all but one had to do with some sort of conflict.

Having considered all this for the past few days I now have a good definition of what "bad news" actually is. It is conflict. Anything that states a position of perception that is contrary to what an entity in power considers correct is bad news. An industry leader (and that means anyone who doesn't call themselves a leader in the news release) is going to consider any news coverage of a competing start up as a conflicting message and therefore bad news.

Let's contrast that with what might be considered "good news." For an entity to call something good news it would have to be something that agrees with its position. But everyone else competing in that space would have to consider it either "bad news," or worse, "a puff piece."

In that definition any news that does not directly benefit an individual is either bad news or puffery.

But I'm going too set a definition of news that most journalists would agree to. "Bad news" is anything that presents a conflict, like a lawsuit or bad financials. Good news is anything that benefits the larger community, like a cure for cancer or a way to cut the cost of semiconductor design. And real news is information that someone may not have had before... regardless of anyone's marketing plans.

If we want to get back to real journalism, we have to accept that we live in a community larger than our own household.