The Middle East is still in turmoil, and for most people, we are still in difficult and uncertain economic times. However, I can make a great case that life is much better than it used to be, but you would never know that by watching most television news shows.
Last week, there was an announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that there were 32,788 traffic fatalities. Now, that is too many, but what may be surprising is that this was the lowest number of traffic deaths since 1949. A variety of factors have probably contributed to this drop in vehicle deaths. We have safer cars, better roads, and dare I say, probably safer drivers.
Are you ready for another piece of good news? Last year, the city of Chicago recorded 436 murders, and my condolences go out to the families of the victims. Nevertheless, as a young reporter, I covered the police department for a regional daily newspaper in Chicago in 1974 when the city recorded 970 murders. I clearly remember when I would go to the Fourth District Police Headquarters every morning, how the police officers and I would be speculating on whether or not the city would top 1,000 murders. Think of it. The murder rate in Chicago has dropped by more than 50 percent since I was a young reporter. By the way, the 970 murders in 1974 still stand as a Chicago records.
Now, I know these promising statistics are small consolation to the families and friends who have lost loved ones to traffic accidents and violent crimes, but life is getting better in so many ways that we often don’t hear about in our doom and gloom news media. For instance, life expectancy in the United States is now up to 78.4 years, and deaths due to many life-threatening diseases such as cancer are going down every year. The advances in medical technology promise a future of longer and healthier lives for American.
My desire is not to condemn the modern-day media for often ignoring or minimizing good news. I really don’t think there is any intent to create a sky is falling mentality. Instead, I attribute much of the negativity that people feel from the news media to the tremendous technical advances in news gathering and reporting.
If you look back about 40 years, there were no 24-hour cable news stations, and there were no mini-cams and satellite trucks that could beam the wreckage of a major vehicle accident or the tragic aftermath of a multiple murder right to your living room. Add the invention of the Internet, which now allows people to watch these distressing videos over and over. This new technology basically enables the electronic news media to rub every aberration of human behavior and nature in your face on a continuous basis. No wonder people often think the world is going to hell in a hand basket.
I am not trying to become another Mr. Rodgers and claim that every day is “a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” but there are many reasons to believe that life in general is getting better than it has ever been. Soak up some of the good news and celebrate. I hope this positive information helps all of you to put life in better perspective and proportion the next time you watch a doom and gloom newscast.