"Flesh-eating bacteria on the rise, experts say," screamed the headline. The story beneath told of the spread of a horrible disease that kills people by eating away at their flesh.
Doom. Gloom. Disaster. They seem to be everywhere these days. Hardly a week goes by without word of some further impending calamity.Last week it was, "Hubble confirms monstrous black hole." That cheerful little yarn was about the discovery of a "supermassive" black hole way out there somewhere gobbling up stars, planets and anything else that happens to come too close.
And while we're out in space, let's not forget about those killer comets headed straight for Jupiter. Could Earth be next?
Things don't look too good for poor, old humanity, folks.
In fact, one of the most common complaints we get from readers is that newspapers seldom print the good news. It's all murder and mayhem, death and destruction.
It's not really true, but I understand what these readers mean. Sometimes I wonder myself if we truly need to know all this awful stuff.
The left front tire on my little car is as slick as a baby's behind and our 20-year-old refrigerator is making really funny noises. You mean I don't have enough on my mind without worrying about man-eating germs, universe-ingesting black holes and kamikaze comets?
Maybe information like this should be released on a need-to-know basis. Better that the scientific community just keep some matters to itself.
On the other hand, you can't deny that these stories are news. I mean, we could hardly have headlines saying, "Whew! No monstrous black holes threaten universe today," or "Exotic disease not slated to wipe out civilization as we know it this week."
But people still have the impression that most of the news is bad and that newspapers just love it that way. I think one problem is that bad news is often so big and good news so small.
Recently, the newspaper printed two letters that illustrate what I mean. One letter tells of a cab driver who returned a lost handbag. The other thanks a couple who changed a tire for a lady in distress.
These are hardly earthshaking stories, but I think they are as important as any real or imagined celestial catastrophe. They illustrate the hundreds and thousands and millions of small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that make life bearable for all of us.
The point is, we can't do much about killer comets, but we can be honest. We can be helpful to our fellow man.
It's true. There is a lot of bad news in the papers these days. The bitter fighting hasn't stopped in Bosnia, the slaughter in Rwanda continues and that crazy guy over in North Korea won't behave.
But until the day that a comet pulverizes us or a black hole swallows us, we need to figure out some way to get along with each other. Then maybe the big headlines will carry as much good news as the small ones.
And as for that flesh-eating bacteria, if it ever strikes me, I just hope it attacks my waistline first.