IT’S good news week.
Yes, this column is dedicated to bringing you only good news because too many people in the past week have told me the media only reports bad news. They tended to make that comment after reading articles about Donald Trump wanting to flog more American bombs and military hardware around the globe to create jobs for Yanks. Making America Great Again, one more heavily-armed international terrorist or despotic regime at a time, I say.
But back to good news.
Item 1: Scientists have developed a new pill to track gases in your gut. And even more remarkably, they issued a media release about it without using the word fart (Note to scientists: it would have been even better good news if you had used the “f” word).
So, scientists and engineers teamed up to produce “ingestible electronic” pills that are swallowed and monitored as they work their way through a person’s digestive tract before, apparently, exiting the body via the time-honoured way (Note to scientists: it would have been even better good news if you’d used the other “f” word you’ve coyly failed to mention to describe the pill’s bodily exit vehicle).
But back to the fart pill. Online publication Nature Electronics said the pills can “sniff out carbon dioxide, hydrogen and oxygen gas molecules in the gut” and send messages to a smartphone about what they find, potentially giving rise to conversations like this:
Scientists have developed a pill to track gases in your gut. And remarkably, they issued a media release about it without using the word fart.
Him: “Is that your phone?”
Her: “No, I think it’s yours.”
Him: “Yeah. You’re right. It’s my fart pill sending a daily update. That lentil and chickpea curry is playing havoc with my hydrogen molecules. My imminent gas expulsion figures are through the roof. You know we were talking about that nice long drive to the country? Maybe hold off for a day or two and I’ll garden instead.”
I don’t know if that’s exactly how the scientists are planning to use their fart-sniffing modules but I know a few people whose friends, families and partners, at least, would appreciate a little advance warning of their guts’ moods.
But farts aren’t the only good news this week.
Item 2: In royal good news, Prince Harry and the future Mrs Prince Harry went for a walk in England and made everyone happy, while Princess Charlotte wore a fetching pink and maroon outfit on her first day at nursery school.
Prince Harry and future Mrs Prince Harry smiled, shook hands and said nice, inoffensive things to crowds who cheered them in multicultural Brixton, as part of a goodwill tour before the public pays squillions for their upcoming wedding.
“It’s a good thing,” said someone called Daniel Solomon, who runs something called a wellness shop and was impressed that a British royal would marry a “mixed race” person, a divorcee and a Yank, to boot.
Across town Princess Charlotte, not yet three, showed why Orstraya shouldn’t sever the umbilical cord with the mother country just yet, while there’s the prospect of a few more royal babies to bring joy to our hearts.
In breathless terms media outlets around the world reported that Princess Charlotte – fourth in line to the throne behind her paternal grandfather, her father and her older brother – would attend a $5000 a term nursery school with a loyal following of “old English families and chic foreigners”.
She wore “a maroon coat with matching shoes, a pink scarf and a pink backpack”, which I suppose is about all you can write in a good news story about a toddler going off to pre-school, apart from whether she had an apple or a handkerchief in her backpack. (I’d go with handkerchief, monogrammed.)
Item 3: Another pollie’s been caught in a travel expenses imbroglio, which is good news because without pollies and travel expenses there wouldn’t be much use for the word imbroglio – an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.
There’s also a certain comfort in the inevitability of a pollie having to explain why the taxpayer should have picked up the tab for his or her regular trips to Cairns or the Gold Coast, followed a few days later by confirmation thousands of dollars had been repaid.
Some things are predictable, and it’s evidence of their predictability that is comforting. We have pollies. We have ridiculously over-indulgent and over-generous schemes to support them. We have imbroglios.
It’s like the inevitability of farts after a heavy lentil and chickpea meal. If we didn’t fart we’d worry about why we didn’t – “Janine, do you think it’s a blockage? What about polyps, or maybe my small intestine’s turned in on itself? Why aren’t I farting? There must be a reason.”
Like farts after lentils and chickpeas, if pollies didn’t get caught in travel expense imbroglios every so often we’d worry about what the hell else they were doing.
The Russian news site City Reporter is said to have run a “Good news day” experiment in 2014, where the sunny side of every news item was emphasised – “Potato famine continues but brussel sprouts at bargain basement prices”; “Putin re-opens gulags while looking virile during shirtless horseback ride”; “Moscow freezes in unprecedented winter cold but at least Stalin’s dead.”
But good news was a dud with the public, City Reporter reported. It lost two-thirds of its unique users with headlines like “No disruption on roads despite snow” and a focus on nice people doing nice things, which may be more of an argument about social media algorithms than anything else.
For my money the “media only reports bad news” statement is trotted out by people who seem to miss the vast number of good news stories that appear in the media every day, and also miss the best good news story of all.
In Australia the media can pursue matters of vital public interest and hold powerful individuals and institutions to account. We live in a democracy where free speech – as much as it is used at times as a political plaything – is valued and where journalists do not feel their lives are at risk for pursuing the truth. And that’s worth celebrating.