"CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley often closes his half-hour newscast with a positive, pick-me-up story. Many times it's reported by Steve Hartman in his feature called "On the Road."
The story is usually a heartwarmer, perhaps a reunion of long-lost family members, a youngster overcoming some dreaded disease by sheer determination or someone simply going the extra mile for someone else. The viewer can't help but smile — and occasionally wipe a tear away.
It got us to thinking. What if the proportion of positive stories and negative stories were inverse? What if the last five minutes of the newscast were devoted to the horrific crime of the day, whether nationally or internationally, and the first 20 to 25 minutes were stories of human triumph and kindness, showing people at their very best?
By now, you may be snickering sarcastically or rolling your eyes at our foolishness. And that's just fine.
Imagine, however, if such a nightly news program really existed. The detractors would, of course, be scornful of such a Pollyanna treatment of real life. Some would suggest a program title like "Sugarcoating at Six" or "The Namby-Pamby News." The "Real-Men-Don't-Eat-Quiche" crowd would roar "Tell it like it is!" and demand the usual hardcore, blood-and-guts coverage: Motorcycle gang members killing one another; a serial-rape suspect smiling at the victim's family; college kids losing their sanity at a frat party; bullies beating up kids or the driver on the bus; road rage turning into murder; stray bullets killing a little girl while she is sleeping in her bed.
Ah yes, it's all news all the time.
Stay with us here, though. Imagine, on the other hand, if parents and kids could get a dose of human interaction from the news that demonstrated civility and kindness and respect. Imagine if such features were the stuff of current-event clippings on school bulletin boards and oral reports in class. How different might the chitchat be around the water cooler at the office, on the school bus or in Sunday School class?
If such a program caught on, would other commercial and cable networks see the value in it? Would producers begin to re-prioritize their stories and focus the spotlight on the good that people do? Would consumers gradually prefer the "Happy Hour" on TV over "Happy Hour" at the corner bar?
Nah, we know the truth. If it bleeds, it leads. Crime and corruption, supported by dramatic visuals, sell newspapers and draw viewers for advertisers. Shakespeare was right, "All the world's a stage," and today nearly anyone can record the audio and video and enjoy 15 minutes of fame. "Going viral" has not only become a worn-out cliché, it is an addiction disguised as recreation.
Think of all the bad that our kids see day-in and day-out in real life and on TV and DVDs. Shakespeare was right again. Evil endures: "The good is oft interred with their bones."
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. They are available for workshops. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.