COMMENTARY: Don't Kill the Messenger, by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Aug 13, 2021 at 04:00 pm by WGNS

When bad news arrived in ancient kingdoms, the messenger was killed. When good news arrived in old times, the messenger was rewarded. With more, here is MTSU Professor Larry Burriss, who talks about the arrival of bad news in today’s times.



Verbatim of Audio: "In several ancient kingdoms, leaders had a way of dealing with the bearer of bad news. If the royal messenger brought news of a loss in battle, or news a subject state was rebelling, the king simply killed the messenger, as if somehow that would improve the situation.

Needless to say, the job market for royal messengers involved a lot of turnover.

So, why do the news media bring us all that bad news? Why can’t they give us any good news?

Well, news, by definition, involves the unusual. It involves deviation from the norm. It involves change. It involves negative events.

Would you read a story that said, "Several hundred students in area high schools were not arrested for murder today. Here is a list of their names."

Or how about, "Several thousand cars in Rutherford County were not involved in accidents yesterday. Here is a list of their license plate numbers."

Or, "No one was burned to death in their trailer last night. Fire officials say they hope the trend will continue.''

The problem is, just what is the "good news" people want. If they are looking for news that is uplifting and moral, I wonder who will decide what is good and uplifting for society.

They do that kind of thing a lot in dictatorships. The state decides what news is good for the people to see, read and hear. Somehow, I don't think we really want that kind of news.

Occasionally, we do see the publication of “good news" newspapers and magazines. And they haven't lasted more than a few issues.

People seem to want to know the bad news.

And problems don’t go away if you ignore them. They only get worse. If you don't like all of the bad news, then do something about it. Work to solve the problem.

But killing the messenger won’t do any good. It will just make you ignorant of what is going on.

And that is a real tragedy.

- I’m Larry Burriss."

About Dr. Burriss

Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.


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