Monday, 8 May 2017
How Positive Media Can Build A Positive Society
This week, Mental Health Awareness Week, publisher Duncan Williams talks about the role of media in society, about depression, good news, and both the positive and negative effects the industry can have on those who work in it.
My father drank himself to death. He suffered convulsions during a failed detox treatment in hospital. I often wonder what might have happened if he had found some inspiration, some faith, even if just in a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
He did have a Bible, but I don't think it was read much. He kept it hidden in a sock drawer next to a rosary and a pistol.
Later, during a gap year, I worked in the same NHS hospital my father had died in. I made dozens of beds on a dementia unit and worked on the hospital’s magazine, The Beacon. It was a well-intentioned title that reached patients with uplifting news stories and pictures. As the name suggested, The Beacon offered hope to vulnerable and sick people.
Perhaps the right book or other literature could have given him the answers he was seeking. Yes, books and writing can save lives. But you must first provide those books and encourage that writing. I notice that a large part of the recovery process for alcoholics in treatment units throughout the world today involves copious amounts of reading and writing.
The medical profession seem to agree that this opens up a channel towards self honesty and a connection with a ‘Higher Power’.
Whether you believe faith is a fantasy or not, books that encourage faith are particularly effective in providing the hope that saves lives. Faith is not just a fanciful idea so much as a practical life raft.
Losing it can spell death for some. Seeking it can help keep you afloat. I have seen it.
Even just seeking faith can work wonders – or simply accepting that you are on a journey, and being grateful for it.
Inspirational literature, or studying theology, can be like a navigation map. It can prevent you from hitting the rocks.
I was fortunate to attend one of the earliest Alpha courses (a Christian enquiry course) set up in London during the 1990s. It was held at St Jude’s Church in Earl’s Court, which is now St Mellitus Theological College. I learned that identification rather than indoctrination seemed the wisest way to introduce ideas and win people over to an important message.
That is why I first started the Christian Free Press. Now incorporated as a limited company and having won a generous bursary from News Group, we are redoubling our efforts to get free Christian newspapers, magazines and literature into local churches, prisons, libraries and hospitals across the UK.
Together with providing print titles, Christian Free Press has also pioneered social media outreach via Facebook and Twitter since 2010.
This simple provision of faith-based literature and media can help bridge the gap of isolation experienced by many people of various ages, who do not have to be in prison to feel alone and without hope.
Part of the aim of the Christian Free Press is to counter the negativity that pervades our national media. The headlines make depressing reading, day after day. A tragic death gets a mass of column inches and airtime, whereas the celebration of a human life gets far less.
Most people would surely prefer to read uplifting stories that aim to educate and inspire.
Instead, column inches seem to be packed full of the woes of celebrities, the failures of politicians, or warnings about impending economic doom after Brexit.
There is nothing to inspire positive change in the life of the reader or society in general.
Wouldn’t it be better to be greeted with an uplifting story about achievement, about something to celebrate, about something optimistic – to get you in a good mood as you take on the day?
I really believe in the power of a good story. A good story does as it says on the tin; it reports a truthful, inspiring message… or draws attention to somebody or something worthwhile.
We need positivity now more than ever. Depression is one of the biggest killers in this country, and mental well-being is one of the greatest problems of our day. The Office for National Statistics reported in 2013 that nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.
And it’s not just a question of reporting more good news than bad news. It’s also a question of how you report the bad news. Why not point to the redeeming features in a tragic story, rather than just the tragedy? People can still learn something from a tragedy that will help them in life, if the event is not just reported in a clinical or cynical way. A tragedy often brings out the best in people and highlights the inner strength of human beings, with communities pulling together during times of adversity.
Whether it be about a tragedy or a success, a good story is always about the celebration of human life.
It’s human nature to want good to succeed over evil; it’s what best assists group survival. The message in the Christian Bible itself is one of tremendous hope. It is filled with inspirational stories and fundamental good news, and that’s where I take my template from.
￼In this era of “post truth” and “alternative facts” many people are turned off by national media reporting, yet if they get their news from social media there is even more “fake news” on offer.
Readers need sources of news that they can trust, now more than ever before.
I believe that by offering more positive media, we can build a more positive society. When all focus is placed relentlessly upon the negative, true vision, faith and hope all get eroded. A new pair of glasses can remind people that the world can still be a very beautiful place, even in the most difficult of times. Modern media can be that powerful. I believe that ten years of revised media attitudes could have a remarkably beneficial effect upon society.
Just imagine if, in ten years’ time, you picked up your morning newspaper and read a good story that not only informed you, but educated you, inspired you, and enriched your life. Wouldn’t that make a nice change?
For more about Christian Free Press Limited, contact Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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