You want Good News? You can't handle Good News!

05/25/2011 01:05 pm ET
  • Mike Hegedus Media consultant, Journalism Instructor and former CNBC correspondent

Live long enough and nearly everything comes back around. It's the reason my 80 year mother thinks we're headed to The Great Depression II, a sequel. Let's hope it's not as 'good' as the first one. I think Brando was in that one too.

It's also why I'm chuckling at all the publicity that Brian Williams' 'discovery' is getting. What discovery? The one where the erstwhile NBC anchor has been apparently shocked to learn that you just can't hammer away at the audience night after night with one dire report after another. According to him, he's been getting so many emails from viewers asking for just a little 'good news', that according to Brian all three network news divisions couldn't do them all. Oh sure they could. But they won't.

'Good news' has a strange connotation in the news business. It conjures up images of old guys making toys for kids out of wire hangars (I've actually done that story), or a couple in Utah that provides a home for any abandoned Golden Retriever--as in any dog of that breed anywhere in the U.S., including Alaska (I've done that one too). They and any number of other stories about the goodness of mankind, the depth of the human spirit, the steadfastness of the American soul are all out there, waiting to be done, looking for a broadcast home. Some of them make it, the vast majority do not. Why?

There are a myriad of reasons. The news division has to 'buy in', there has to be someone who's good at doing them, and the audience has to respond, has to really want them. According to Williams now they do. And what I think they're looking for are not the 'Person of the Week' kind of stories that ABC does so well on Friday nights. I think what we're looking for are signs that we're all okay, that we're going to make it. That my Mom is wrong.

For every company that lays off workers, there's a company that is saving jobs using innovative techniques. For every factory that closes, there's another small or medium sized business that is opening somewhere in America--how are they doing that, why? For every foreclosure, there's a young couple buying their first home.

I once had a colleague ask me this question--'How come I'm the one who does all the important stories, but it's your stories that people remember?'

That was good news.