TV Reports | Counteracting avoidance of bad news

Kim has recently been “pulling the plog” on the news, including newscasts. The pandemic, inflation, shortages, the war in Ukraine, American politics… The news was too “heavy”, especially in summary.

Posted at 8:00 am

Marc Andre Lemieux

Marc Andre Lemieux
The press

“That scared me. I was in c*sse the whole time! I quit because of my mental health,” explains the 41-year-old Montrealer.

Kim is anything but an isolated case. A survey by the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report released earlier this summer shows an increase in a phenomenon known as “active avoidance” of news, a term that refers to a conscious decision to avoid news timeliness, in part because it negatively affects her mood.

In fact, bad news can be accompanied by “emotional rebound effects,” “micro-emotions” that can last for hours in some more sensitive viewers, explains François Rich, neuropsychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

“For some people, it creates a sense of helplessness in the face of major social and economic forces. It makes them feel less than they really are. Being constantly reminded that there are many things you have no control over is morally difficult, he illustrates. I understand that you want to leave such a source of stress. »

A worrying phenomenon

The progression of active avoidance worries, to varying degrees, the three main Québec channels that present daily newscasts, TVA, Radio-Canada and Noovo.

TVA boss Sophie Thibault says she needs to “cover the important stories,” but recognizes that a slew of bad news “depresses the world.”

“What’s the public interest in talking about a guy swearing and driving into fawns?” What gives? What are we sending as a summons to the people who are listening? I was at home when it happened and changed jobs,” says the landlord TVA News 5 p.m and 6 p.m.


Sophie Thibault, TVA presenter

According to Sophie Thibault, we must refrain from “bombing viewers with terror”. Other strategies are preferable.

We can give people great stories without them being candy or blue flowers. We are human, we need hope.

Sophie Thibault, antenna manager

At Radio-Canada, they refuse to adapt the content of newscasts to keep viewers likely leaving the airwaves, exhausted from heavy subjects.

“Let’s build the common thread of the news broadcast say: “Don’t you have too much depressing news?” The answer is no, ”comments the general director of information of the public broadcaster, Luce Julien. “Would we withhold news from each other because it’s hard to hear? No longer. »

“We have no mandate for good news. Otherwise we would fail in our mission to inform the public about important news,” she adds.

However, Radio-Canada allows itself to touch the container. The manner in which information is conveyed is the subject of constant reflection.

The state-owned company is also interested in solutions journalism, a type of journalism that asserts itself by offering keys to solving the problem raised.

“Be it in health, in the environment… We’re trying to see if there are models elsewhere in the world that work, that could guide us and teach us lessons,” stresses Luce Julien.

The new head of antenna at Noovo, Marie-Christine Bergeron, believes that by modulating the audio of newscasts, we can make the experience easier for many.


Marie-Christine Bergeron, Branch Manager at Noovo

That’s why she wants to create a “relaxed” atmosphere thread 17. “I like it when it’s relaxed. We can smile when the news lends itself to it. Sometimes you have to breathe. We are coming out of a pandemic, we are coming out of a very dark and difficult time. We could be heading for something just as dark. We’re talking about recession, economic troubles, etc. If you can find a small way to make viewers smile, you have to take it. It can do good. Just because it’s a news show doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time. »

hearing little affected

On the bright side for TVA, Radio-Canada and Noovo, the rise in active avoidance doesn’t seem to hurt the ratings of major news shows. For the moment.

The president of agency dentsu Quebec, Geneviève Guay, has not noticed any “significant movement” in recent years. The latest hearing results would be similar to those before the pandemic, she points out.

Adults in Quebec watch almost 30 million hours of news programs per week, or 22% of their total TV time, according to a ThinkTV study published in July, compiled from Numéris data for fall 2021.

News is behind fiction series (23%) but ahead of general interest programs (18%), movies (13%), reality TV (12%) and all sporting events (9%).

According to neuropsychologist François Richer, diffusers still need to adjust their bulletins because they risk losing customers. In particular, it promotes better contextualization of messages.

“There should be less news without a long-term perspective. Journalists could provide optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. Above all, he thinks, we need to curb the tendency to exaggerate. No, the United States will not become a dictatorship because of Donald Trump. No, COVID-19 doesn’t mean we’re going to lose half the people. »

“The media want the butter and the money for the butter. They want the shock effect, but without accepting the consequences. They’re like candy or heroin sellers: they’re happy to have a captive clientele, but when their clients fall ill, they’re surprised to lose some. »

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