Kim recently “disliked” the news, including the news. The pandemic, inflation, shortages, the war in Ukraine, American politics… The news had become too “heavy”, especially in summary.
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“It was worrying. I was always in c * sse! For my mental health, I dropped out, “explains the 41-year-old from Montreal.
Kim is far from an isolated case. A survey by the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report published earlier this summer shows an increase in a phenomenon known as “active avoidance” of news, a term that refers to a deliberate decision to dodge the news, including other because it negatively affects mood.
Bad news can indeed be accompanied by “emotional rebound effects”, “micro-emotions” that can persist for a few hours in some more sensitive viewers, explains neuropsychologist and psychology professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal François Rich.
“In some people it creates a sense of helplessness in the face of major social and economic forces. It makes them feel like they are less than they actually are. Being constantly reminded that you don’t have much control over is morally difficult, she explains. I understand that you may want to leave such a source of stress. ”
A worrying phenomenon
The progression of active avoidance worries, to varying degrees, the three generalist channels in Quebec that present daily news, TVA, Radio-Canada and Noovo.
TVA chief Sophie Thibault thinks she needs to “bring back the big stories,” but also acknowledges that a bundle of bad news “depresses the world.”
“What’s the public interest in talking about a boy bumping into fawns while cursing?” What does it give? What do we charge to the people who are listening? I was at home when it happened and I changed jobs, “says the host of TVA News 5pm And 18:00.
According to Sophie Thibault, we must refrain from “bombarding viewers with horrors”. Other strategies are preferable.
We can offer people great stories without them being candy or blue flowers. We are human beings, we need hope.
Sophie Thibault, head of the antenna
At Radio-Canada, they refuse to adapt the content of the news to keep viewers who risk abandoning the airwaves, exhausted by heavy arguments.
“We are building the leitmotif of TV news saying, “Don’t you have too much depressing news?” The answer is no ”, comments the director general of information for the public broadcaster, Luce Julien. “Would we deprive ourselves of news because it is difficult to hear? Not anymore. ”
“We don’t have a good news warrant. Otherwise, we would fail in our mission to inform the public about important news, ”he adds.
However, Radio-Canada permits itself to touch the container. The way of conveying information is the subject of continuous reflection.
The state-owned company is also interested in resolutive journalism, a type of journalism that gains ground by offering keys to solving the problem raised.
“Whether in health, in the environment … We are trying to see, in other parts of the world, if there are models that work, that could guide us, that could teach us lessons”, Luce Julien emphasizes.
In Noovo, new antenna chief Marie-Christine Bergeron believes that by modulating the tone of the news, we can make the experience easier for many.
That’s why he wants to create a “relaxed” atmosphere in the Discussion 17. “I like it when it’s relaxed. We can smile when the news lends itself to us. Sometimes you have to breathe. We are coming out of a pandemic, we are coming out of a very dark and difficult period. We may be heading for something equally dark. There is talk of recession, economic difficulties, etc. When you can find a little way to make viewers smile, you have to take it. It can do good. Just because it’s a newscast doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time. ”
Listening little affected
Positive point for TVA, Radio-Canada and Noovo: the increase in active avoidance does not seem to affect the audience of the main news. For the moment.
President of the dentsu Quebec agency, Geneviève Guay has not identified any “significant movement” in recent years. The most recent listening results would be similar to pre-pandemic levels, she points out.
According to a ThinkTV study, released in July and compiled from Numéris data for the fall of 2021, Quebec adults watch nearly 30 million hours of news per week, or 22% of the total time they spend watching television.
The news comes behind fiction (23%), but ahead of general interest programs (18%), films (13%), reality shows (12%) and all sporting events (9%).
According to neuropsychologist François Richer, speakers still have to adapt their newsletters because they risk losing customers. In particular, it encourages better contextualization of news.
“There should be less news without a long-term perspective. Journalists could provide optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. Above all, according to him, the tendency to exaggerate must be curbed. No, the United States will not become a dictatorship because of Donald Trump. No, COVID-19 doesn’t mean we’ll 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 are like candy or heroin sellers: they are happy to have a captive clientele, but when their customers get sick, they are surprised to lose some. ”