How does the news keep your attention? With negativity, shock, and sensationalism.
Warren Francke, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, designed a study that revealed just how essential negative storylines were to editors of newspapers. That study was described in the book Sensationalism, where the authors wrote:
Francke’s study found sensational content was printed for entertainment and in order to sell newspapers, but editors rarely admitted that these were the reasons for including sensational content. An interesting finding in Francke’s study was that if crime news came in without grotesque details, the editors often would add them. Most criminal cases were not seen firsthand, so the editors would imagine the crime scene and would add in “the rotting body” or “brains thrown throughout the room.”
In addition to Francke’s research, I have also heard a popular tale about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As the story goes, the newspaper that covered the fire sold faster than any paper before it. A savvy news editor realized this and began to write negative headlines with great success. After that, the lesson was clear: negative news sold well.