Editor’s note: Barry Beith, PhD, is president of HumanCentric Technologies, and is a frequent contributor to Local Tech Wire.Sometimes the human side of technology just needs a boost, but apparently we are not going to find it in the newspaper.

I read the Business section of The News and Observer recently and found an article from The Associated Press with the heading ‘Survey: 9 Percent expect to cut staff”.

The subheading was “20 Percent of employers plan to add jobs.”

The subheading as you would expect was smaller, lighter, and less obvious, but that’s ok because the whole article was doom and gloom. Quotes about the disaster of it all and comparisons of current forecasts to prior years. The bottom line was that the 9 percent bad news outweighed in every way the 20 percent good news.

This was perhaps the most blatant example I have ever seen of choosing bad news over good to drive the impression and “feel” of the news. This article felt like the Associated Press’s depiction of the old adage “If you don’t have anything to worry about, you’ve overlooked something!” By the time I’d read the article, I wanted to crawl back into bed, close the curtains, and hide until tomorrow just to see if it was a better day.

I sometimes wonder what the news agencies and media will do when the economy does come back. Lord knows they are fighting it tooth and nail. Every market recovery is caveated by portents of the next dive, every industrial sector ground gainer ends with a “yeah, but” warning of the inevitable brick wall we are going to hit.

I remember reading once, can’t remember where or when, that research showed that although optimists were happier about life, pessimists were more accurate in their predictions of outcome most of the time. Now if this isn’t depressing enough, there is certainly enough common wisdom to suggest that there is a link between expectations and outcome. How much harder will it be to emerge from the quagmire of these economic times if the pessimists, nay-sayers, and “doom and gloom” specialists are in charge of the information we use to set our expectations.

Sword waiting to fall

I am as tired of this sword of Damocles journalism as I am of the weather patterns. I left the Miami Valley in Ohio because I began to expect overcast and the depression it can bring.

I tend to be an optimist, sometimes perhaps even a bit cock-eyed, but enough of the emphasis on the bad news for Pete’s sake. Whatever happened to hope springing eternal, darkest before the dawn, and “The Sun’ll Come Up Tomorrow” (second on the mind-bending continuous-loop hit parade right behind “It’s a Small, Small World”). Isn’t it about time that we were fed a diet of optimism by the media. Is reality always defined by sobering facts and squashed anticipation?

Truth is that attitude brings us through hard times as much as anything else. Looking for a silver lining isn’t just an exercise in selective attention, it is the search for those things that provide hope and direct our attention and energy to emerging into the light. We are by the way doing that. OK, maybe it feels like two steps forward and one step back, but that’s better than it was a few months ago when it felt like one step forward and two steps back. And, yes there are areas like the Silicon Valley, Austin, TX, and the NorthEast where the recovery is slower and more painful, but no one ever said that recoveries were either smooth, continuous, or even across such a vast economy or geography.

Riding the good news

I, for one, am tired of the negative news and would love to see the media “drive” some of the recovery by emphasizing the positive. There is a lot of it. The technology sector just got full of itself in some ways and, like a runner with too much energy, outran its legs, fell on its face, and scraped its knees. So fine, now we’re up and running again, a little slower, slightly gimpier, but smarter as well.

Let’s find the good news and ride it through the recovery and eschew this tendency of the media to believe that bad news is good press, that disasters and accidents are inherently more interesting, and that reality should always be deceptive, painful, and depressing.

As a start, I suggest the 9% of the companies identified in this depressing little piece of journalism send names and resumes to the 20% that were given short shrift and the minor subtitle and see if that fills their bill. You look around sometimes and wonder how this country ever won freedom, survived the Civil War, made it through the Great Depression, or got past Omaha Beach. But we did, and we did it with each other, for each other, and because of each other, and we will again.

How’s that for cock-eyed, bald-faced, Pollyanna born and bred optimism?

HumanCentric Technologies: www.humancentrictech.com