Information as Air

Information as Air

Discussing balance between positive and negative content in media 

At all the EWF’s platforms, which I visited, people discussed lack of media covering socially important projects, relevant issues and ways of solving them, and inspiring success stories. The doctors lamented lack of basic knowledge affecting nation’s health badly. Entrepreneurial supporters marked information shortcoming as one of their main obstacles. Philanthropy funds complained about people unaware of programmes and campaigns established for them. Alongside with that, the data on how the efficiency of socially important projects increased after being covered by press were provided. Unfortunately, most part of mass media still respond to such matters rather unwillingly. 

Thus, our web-portal initiated and held an open debate called ‘Media in Shaping the Modern Image of Women’s Leadership: Information for Peace and Sustainable Development’ at the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum. Professor Marina Volynkina, Doctor of Judicial Science, rector of IGUMO, and the head of the EWC moderated the discussion. The great number of people present indicated relevance of the topic. 

This is despite the fact that there were many other correspondingly interesting discussions held at the same time. 

Ms. Volynkina decided to consider the issue widely and invited both media specialists and scientists. According to different studies, negative content epidemic in Russian media can affect people consuming it. That is why, Tatyana Chernigovskaya, a well-known Russian neuroscientist and psycholinguist, was one of the first to give her speech. According to her, moderate stressors are healthy, as they help one concentrate. For instance, being slightly nervous before giving a speech enhances your focus, while being totally calm makes you lose your drive, which makes your speech lose in showiness. 

However, stress extent should be balanced. When negative or completely useless information is constantly broadcasted on TV, it affects one badly. 

A frequent counterargument sounds as the following: “Press the button and turn your TV off”. The problem here is that the majority of adults, without even mentioning children, does not understand they put themselves in danger. The thing is, our brain needs feeding just as our belly does. If we eat something bad, our body will react accordingly. If such happens, we will take a pill. 

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However, after feeding our brain negative information, what pill will cure our information poisoning? Unlike our belly our brain is not a sieve, it keeps everything it gets. 

You may be unaware of memorising some negative content. Yet, it does not mean your brain does not contain it. We are often surprised at sudden mood swings, but that is exactly how our brain reacts to what we fed it. “I’m afraid I have to disappoint everyone present: you cannot control what happens in your brain. At least, do not put additional negative content in it. It concerns everyone, no matter smart or silly you are. 

Even bad music, do not let it in. It is impossible to fight it afterwards. 

Why do we give up so early? We succumbed to that flow of information. One has to be able to push the button, turn the negative source off and stop receiving trash”. 

Elena Makarova, editor-in-chief of Geometry of Destiny magazine, picked up the topic brought up by Tatyana Chernigovskaya. Ms. Makarova encouraged journalists to treat their articles responsibly and foresee, which emotions would they trigger. 

At the beginning of the discussion, Marina Volynkina explained it is not about publishing only positive articles or establishing censorship. 

Surely, mass media should objectively reflect our reality, informing people about negative events as well. However, recently some Russian media deliberately communicate mostly negative content. Thus, people feel like there is nothing good happening in our world, which is not true. 

Journalists should take off their dark glasses and notice that our multi-coloured world is not that black. It is essential to restore the balance between positive and negative content. 

Information is like air; it is always around us and surely influences us a lot. Air pollution has been one of the most relevant topics lately. However, only a few bring up the topic of information pollution. Just like one cannot breathe oxygen only, they cannot live normally knowing only about positive things. Some amount of carbon dioxide should be in the air. The task is to minimise the amount of impurities and restore the normal dosage of oxygen. It means, we have to minimise the amount of toxic information by adding positive, inspiring content required for one’s development and self-actualisation. 

The opponents of socially responsible journalism usually say that mass media is a business, so we will focus on all the mayhem as it is sold better. 

Fortunately, there are media, which take responsibility for what they publish and stay highly popular at the same time. Marina Mishunkina, the first deputy editor-in-chief at ‘Argumenty i Fakty’ publishing house, shared about how her newspaper balances between positive educational information and covering events. 

She quoted Hippocrates: “We are what we eat”. Ms. Mishunkina drew a parallel: “Aside from food, we consume emotions, communication, and information. If you want to be pure and happy, you will have to protect yourself of the products, which intoxicate your life. Being a positive person and a seeker, you will most likely consume only the content, which forms your positive attitude and development. That way, negativity domination will not affect you – or just partly”. 

It is believed that people will read even poorly written articles on tragedies and catastrophes, while it takes great skill to draw audience’s attention to positive content. A convincing counterargument here would be enormous qualitative and quantitative growth of positive-friendly corporate media. Larisa Rudakova, the president of MediaLine publishing house, which publishes over 100 corporate media for largest Russian and international companies, told us how they manage to do so. 

Today about 92 million people comprise the audience of corporate media. One of the keys to success is to faithfully reflect the action as well as to present the story in such a way that readers want to read it. 

That is why journalists from corporate media use all contemporary techniques including storytelling, infographics, and cases with positive experience, etc. 

Ms. Rudakova proposed to launch a media flash mob titled A Day of Good News to motivate journalists to focus on positive information for a little while. 

Tatyana Bachinskaya, editor-in-chief of Business & Society magazine and founder of School of Journalism in CSR, spoke about the importance to cover socially important initiatives in media. She gave a bright example. Severstahl company has almost solved the problem of orphanhood in the Russian city of Cherepovets where many children were adopted, and as a result several orphanages were closed. But that could hardly be possible without media campaign, as participation of local media increased the project's efficiency 20 times. Unfortunately, this story is like and exception from the rules, as usually media don’t willingly respond to social projects initiated by commercial structures. 

Today, social media are very important in addition to traditional ones. They influence public consciousness, agenda, and the worldview of the readers. 

This is actually relevant for the young generation. Julia Rakova, Digital Media and Social Network Expert, Blogger and Influencer, Marketing Director of GetResponse Russia, presented the review of the most popular trends. According to it, by 2020, video content will comprise 80% of consumers network traffic. Already now, millennials take 80% decisions (for example, to buy something) based on video watching. 

Journalist Ksenia Sobchak presented speech against stereotyping. “Media is the main source of stereotypes. The problem of sexism is the issue I’m extremely concerned about and the issue I offer to discuss”. 

However, discussing problem isn’t enough. That is why Marina Volynkina offered to launch the Global Marathon of Women’s Success Stories. Raising awareness about women’s achievements in all spheres worldwide will help change the attitude of global community to them. This will inspire self-confidence of other women and motivate them to take on serious tasks. 

International representatives also took part in the discussion. As a person who devoted her whole life to good deeds, Sarah Harder, President of the National Peace Foundation and a good friend of our web-portal, supported Ms. Volynkina’s ideas. 

During the discussion, Maithreyi Seetharaman, founder and CEO of Facultas Media Limited, expressed the wish to see news, especially economic-related, without any emotional coloring. 

Larisa Belousova, Managing Director of TASS, summarized the reports. She supported the speakers’ ideas concerning justice and objectivity of information and was against censorship as well. At the same time, she believes, observing balance between negative and positive content is needed. However, news media should give an impulse motivating its readers to positive. Social responsibility of journalism lies in the content itself, which must give educational information and show the way to improve the world better. 

At the end of the discussion, a resolution was unanimously adopted. It offers to conduct the Global Marathon of Women’s Success Stories that will motivate and inspire other women, to create new projects or take part in them, to address acute problems, to borrow successful experience, including international one, and to find like-minders. 

We believe that many people need this breath of fresh air. Probably, other media will follow our example. Let’s filter information flows properly, fill the world with inspiring and objective information, and ensure the adequate balance of positive and negative news. 

Tatyana Vorozhtsova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Boykov and Nikolay Gavrilov