and finally...

It’s not all gloom and doom… is it?

Chris Proctor searches for a bit of optimism in the daily news S

ometimes I look at the papers and think we could do away with the media and hand out free depressants to

the populace instead. We’d have the same results and save trees at the same time. My partner Amanda scans the headlines each morning and hides the paper from me. She is pandering to the needs of an instinctive misery-avoider. The news is no place for me these days. It starts bad and gets diabolic.

Don’t get me wrong. I am aware that a global pandemic that devastates family, social and economic relations is not a joyful phenomenon. But an endless chronicle of gloom only adds to the all-pervading national despond. There are positive and encouraging

stories out there but, in general, they are deemed dull. They are not newsworthy. Why is this? Do editors think all their readers are morose, pessimistic, bleak self-flagellants who enjoy nothing more than a wallow in melancholy? Or do they have a point? Every now and then, someone starts

a mag that will be devoted to good news. Not fake good news like ‘City centre explosion: good news for glaziers’. Real stories of everyday heroism and altruism, human bonds and generosity. It is a marvellously positive and bright idea that seldom makes a second edition. Even in these bleak times, there are

tales of enormous courage shown by underpaid shop workers, hospital volunteers, organisers of food banks,

tube drivers and midwives. Local volunteer corps have sprung up, offering to pick up groceries and prescriptions and take dogs for walks. And there was that marvellous story

of a nurse at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital who bought a caravan so she could live in the driveway of her 84-year-old mother’s house so she could stay close and avoid infecting her. Nine months she was there until her mum got the vaccine. It’s a beautiful story that, unfortunately, doesn’t cut the mustard when we’re faced with a devastating new strain of coronavirus that is (potentially) warming up in Mongolia. An endless diet of misery really doesn’t help in a country already beset by plague. We’re all low, missing one thing or another, and then we’re spoon fed dire warnings to sit alongside our daily sad facts. Weakened, we’re drip-fed failures, shortages and gatherings of the unmasked. If you’re not on your way towards depression by now, you’re not a well person. We become more helpless as we see and read stories of pending disasters we can do nothing about. When the government says intensive care beds might run out in a fortnight, it doesn’t make people say: “Oh well, I’ll put off having the virus for a couple of months.” It’s not like it’s a decision. Then, we, the media, add to the

problem. We get news that a vaccine has been developed. Immediately, we seek out experts

who doubt it will work, despair at how long it will take to produce and bewail a potential needle shortage.

Anyway, the virus might mutate so the vaccine wouldn’t work. It can only getworse. How are you feeling now, reader? Even when editors get bad news they’re not happy. There’s always room for more torment, like that story about teenagers who ‘trashed’ All Saints Church in East Horndon, Essex, as they revelled in an illegal rave. Top story: plague, youth, rebellion and heresy. What the story didn’t mention was

that no religious service had been held in All Saints Church since 1970. It’s been used as a community centre for the past 50 years. And the devastating damage came to a grand. On the positive side, it was good

“ ”

Every now and then someone starts a mag devoted to good news. It is a marvellously bright idea that seldom makes a second edition

news for church commissioners. Within a few days of the incident, people reacting to’ the ‘destroyed church’ story had donated 10 times the cost of the repairs. So we start with the bad news of an irresponsible gathering and then add on more misery and devastation of our own making. As if things weren’t bad enough. I’m not saying we should hide the facts about the virus or censor bad news to stiffen the nation’s upper lip. Far from it. But constant dejection is bad for us. And it’s not the whole picture. It isn’t balanced. For every illegal gathering there are a tens of thousands of decent, caring brave people offering kinship, friendliness and fraternity. People who can inspire us. It would be good for us all if we gave them more coverage. The only alternative I can see is handing out free Prozac.

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