The Public Psychology: The House That Didn't Burn Down
A popular myth in conservative political circles is that the U.S. mainstream media never has any good news about Iraq, or some recent improvements in some violence reduction is not reported. The reality is that good news from Iraq including some reductions in some violence levels has been clearly reported by the media, however because of several factors, good news never gets a higher publicity level.
On one hand, the public impressions about Iraq have been pretty well set with the public, and the public has decided that do not like the war and would like to see the American role end there. The public is beginning to tune out all news from there and simply accept that violence continues to plague that land, and little in the way of any positive news seems to want to change that established impression. If the war had been more successful early on, then the public impression of the war would be different now.
And another important factor is that in the media the house that didn't burn down last night is never as interesting as the one that did. Bad news sells papers or drives news coverage interest, public interest stories never sell much. It is not so much that the media wants bad news, but bad news sells well, and the public has a strong appetite for such news, but at the same time trashy news like the latest Britney Spears or Paris Hilton outrage provides some needed laughs, although at their expense.
The public psychology and apetite is the ultimate driver of the news, not the other way around, as conservatives may wrongly assume. The media is not out to educate the public as much as it exists to reflect the public's news apetite for bad news headlines. The California fires story is perfect news. It's all about the house that burned down last night.