21 December 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Newspapers, and media outlets generally, are often castigated for foregrounding bad news at the expense of the good.
It’s an age-old complaint, but one that seems to have added force nowadays.
Given the fact that there is little break in the cloud cover of global economic gloom, it can be argued that being bombarded relentlessly by news negativity can sustain and even deepen the mood of depression and demotivation it is all too easy for people to fall prey to – and that such a phenomenon can even prolong the downturn itself.
Newspeople offer the defence that they are merely the messenger: they hold a prism up to the world that accurately refracts the prevailing spectrum, and if the shades this casts are grim and glowering rather than roseate, that is the way the world is at the time.
In practice the transmission of news is never as neutral as that: it is influenced profoundly by market competition and, despite the principles of balance and objectivity to which journalists aspire, significantly by the personal predilections of the writer or broadcaster.
At this time of the year, however, many of us look beyond the profane bounds of current affairs for our ‘Good News’.
The majority of our readership who hold religious convictions will be of Christian affiliation, and for the devout among them Christmas holds deep spiritual significance.
They will read closely, no doubt, the seasonal joint message of the Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher that we carry on this page of our final edition before the Christmas holiday and the turn of the year, and in it they will find a very interesting meditation upon the Good News of scripture.
Although the Bishops take as their text an element of the Nativity story as recounted in the Gospel of Luke, the concerns they address are contemporary, and to the fore we imagine in the hearts and minds of a great many of our readership at this time of what has been a challenging twelve months.
The fear to which the Bishops refer has become a pervasive accompaniment to the economic uncertainty and the increasingly challenging personal and financial circumstances in which we struggle from day to day.
No one lives a life totally free from fear, but for some in our community, for very real reasons perhaps brought about by loss of employment or income in the year past, the secondary effects of accentuated fear for their selves, their families and their future have become severely debilitating, sometimes in a deeply spiritual sense.
The negative feelings produced should ideally be ameliorated by the spirit of the season we are entering into – but in reality they are very often accentuated by it.
Loss of confidence and self-worth, and loss of financial capability, can hit home with devastating impact because of the over-emphasis on material acquisition and the equation of happiness with possessions that has become the ubiquitous Christmas message constantly reinforced by the machinery of commerce.
The personal toll exacted is often one of family strife and refuge in the temporary numbness evoked by alcohol or drug abuse out of which the indulger must inevitably emerge to an even more depressing reality than the one they briefly absented themselves from.
And yet there is in the sabbatical element of the days ahead an opportunity to withdraw in a much more self-enhancing sense from every day care – the chance for meditation and taking stock, and to look beyond the bounds of personal concerns to those whose lot may be much more meagre than our own and whose needs be more pressing if not always visible to the cursory appraisal they usually receive.
There are many organisations in our community whose work to help the needy grows most intense at this time of the year, and whose ranks are never so full of willing volunteers than an extra pair of helping hands would be refused. We should all try to spare such altruistic endeavours some of our time as well as our pecuniary support.
The need to keep an attentive eye on the elderly or those living alone in our communities is always reinforced in the weeks ahead – a small expenditure of time for a companionable visit or an enquiring telephone call can bring much profit for the giver as well as support for the receiver, and can oft times be the factor in averting instances of practical or even medical need that might otherwise go unattended to.
Co-operation with the Gardai in their annual Christmas and New Year road safety campaign is another way we can contribute positively to the preservation of the peaceful atmosphere we all hope will be preserved in the weeks ahead.
Good habits by drivers and pedestrians are occasionally broken at this time of the year – one is acting responsibly rather than obtrusively if proper practice is reinforced by good example or even preventative intervention.
The Gardai are one of several groups of people who will be working late and long over the Christmas season to preserve public safety and respond to any emergency situation that might arise – and the least they deserve from the public is the civility and support that their annual campaign to save lives and preserve safety on our roads very much merits.
In all these ways, and in others that will occur within our own small circles of family and companionship, are opportunities where we can make our own Good News this Christmas, and contribute to a genuinely warm, peaceful and pleasant time regardless of whatever events might occupy the headlines.
We can all act positively to ensure that ourselves and others, as the Gospel says, “Be not afraid.”
It is with the genuine hope that the days ahead will bring many opportunities for personal fulfilment and for bringing some cheer into the lives of others, be they of close or distant acquaintance, that this newspaper extends to all our readers its own humble wishes for a tranquil and truly happy Christmas and New Year.

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