Donovan Group Insights

How Does Bad News Spread So Quickly?

When good stuff happens in your district, hardly anyone seems interested. But when something bad happens, it’s all anyone can talk about. The unfortunate truth is that bad news often spreads much faster than good news.

Bad news can take on a life of its own, but only if you let it. District leaders have the power to wrangle bad news before it hits the national stage. To achieve this, let’s first look at why bad news travels fast and how it spreads throughout the media.

Why does bad news spread faster?

Bad news spreads so quickly because negativity is a survival instinct. People want to know what’s going on in the world and whether it poses a threat to their way of life. Negativity provokes a strong emotional response, making it an effective way for news outlets to engage their audiences.

How bad news travels down the chain

Here’s how bad news generally spreads from one media outlet to the next:

  • Local coverage: News stories usually originate from the district’s own community. A local newspaper will often be the first to spread the word about a bad situation. The story will run within a day or two of local reporters receiving a tip.
  • Editorial boards: Once the news is out, editorial boards will respond to it. They analyze the facts from news stories, then they present their opinions about the issue. An editorial’s viewpoint may differ from yours, and this can change the public’s perception of your district.
  • Associated Press wires: If a story gets big enough, the Associated Press will pick it up. Associated Press stories are distributed throughout the agency’s network, which means local stations around the country will have the option of running the story as well.
  • Radio and television: After receiving greater attention, radio and television stations will likely want to report on the story. Their programs have limited time slots, so if a story makes the cut, that means it’s worth talking about.
  • National media: If everyone in your state is talking about a story, the national media will want to join the conversation. Again, nationwide news outlets often get their stories from the Associated Press, allowing people across the country to hear what happened.

You can’t always stop bad news from getting out, but remember this: bad news doesn’t spread as far when the district responds to it. Engage the public about bad news, and it’s less likely to get out of hand.

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