Spread the good news | Sunday Observer

Spread the good news

Overjoyed relatives celebrating the good news in Thailand
Overjoyed relatives celebrating the good news in Thailand

If you watch CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, NDTV and other news services regularly, like I do, you will notice the overwhelming dominance of bad news – conflict, war, terrorism, natural and man-made disasters, environmental problems, poverty and famine, epidemic diseases, trade wars, border disputes and immigration and so many other issues which paint a picture of a troublesome world.

Over at social media, it is even worse because there are plenty of items disguised as news which are actually patently false. We call them “fake news” because that is actually what they are. They have no basis in fact. But many gullible people fall for these blatant lies and share them enthusiastically with other users. As the saying goes, a lie goes halfway around the world before the truth can even put its pants on.

Good news

But in this melee of distressing and false news, there is another category of news that is increasingly hard to come by. It is called “good news”. These are news items that rekindle our faith in humanity and lift our spirits. These are news stories that help us smile after a hard day’s work. Called “human interest” stories in journalistic jargon, these are happenings that make us joyful and leave us longing for more of the same. And the good news is, there actually are websites devoted to good news – including, you guessed it, The Good News Network.

Once in a while, there comes news that is so good, we all want to jump up in joy. When a young Thai football team and their coach (ages ranging 11-16, coach only 25) went missing in a complex cave system off Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, practically the whole world held its breath for a week or so. Here was a classic story that raised so many questions - what will happen to them in a flooded cave, do they have air to survive, do they have access to clean water, did they have anything to eat in their backpacks. People the world over prayed for their safe return and international cave diving experts jetted in at their own expense to help the Thai Navy SEALs in the frantic search. The story got saturation coverage even on networks that were heavily biased in favour of news from the West.

The rescue teams worked day and night, until the news that people all over the world waited to hear was announced: the boys and their coach were alive ! In that moment, the whole world shared the sheer joy and relief with the parents and relatives of the trapped boys and their coach. This is one of the best news stories of the year so far, even though it will take some time to get the team out if due to the cave’s very complex layout.

Heartwarming stories

Good news does not even have to be about people. As the TV channel Animal Planet proclaims in one of its promotional commercials, animal stories are “surprisingly human”.

There are many heartwarming stories about animals in the news streams every day. One particular story I came across recently concerned a deaf puppy that had fallen into a drainage crevice in Alabama, USA.

After 30 hours of effort, volunteers were able to rescue the 7-week-old deaf puppy that fell down the 50-foot crevice behind a house in Alabama. Volunteers erupted in cheers as the pup - named Toffee - was pulled out of the narrow hole around midnight Saturday with the help of a snare and some food. Toffee fell into the inches-wide space around 5 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters, cave rescue crews and plumbers joined the rescue effort, lowering nets, snares and food to try to retrieve Toffee. “This is a miracle,” Karen Smith, the puppy’s foster mother, told reporters. Video footage showed the white puppy wagging her tail as Smith cuddled her. This is indeed a tear-inducing story about an animal in distress and an entire community coming to its aid. If this kind of story does not stir your heart, sorry to say, you are not human.

It is somewhat unfortunate that many good stories do not make it to the headlines, given the propensity to have sensational stories. One impediment is that good stories are often very ‘slow’ affairs. Scientists raced against the clock to rid Africa of Ebola and they have largely succeeded. Last time I checked, this story received very little air time on worldwide TV networks. Worldwide, there are many good stories such as new roads, bridges, hospitals and schools being built and health authorities making vast strides, but there is very little reportage. The announcement that work will begin soon on a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system for Colombo and suburbs is very positive news, but not many newspapers or TV networks bothered to report this in-depth.

Politics

Politics is often bad news, but there are some surprisingly positive political stories as well. In Sri Lanka, there was a heartwarming story of a Deputy Minister climbing a tree to pluck fruits to feed an injured elephant calf. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a healthy baby, becoming only the second world leader to do so, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto. In the US, authorities announced that they would no longer separate children from their parents who are illegal immigrants at border crossings. In the EU, the leaders broadly agreed to a migration plan that can potentially save lives.

FIFA

Right now, the world has another reason to smile – the FIFA World Cup being held in Russia until July 15. This is a global celebration of sport that brings billions of people together. Here is an opportunity to forget your worries and sit in front of the telly with a long drink in hand, as you contemplate the fate of whatever teams are in the field. From Olympics to the Cricket World Cup (to be held next year in the UK), sports cut across all barriers and unify the world. It does not really matter who wins in the end, it is all about how you play the game. And so it is about life itself. If you do something good, there is a chance that someone will tell about it to the whole world, upending bad news at least for a while.

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