Today, as I was driving down one of Joburg’s main roads, I was reminded again (as I always am while driving down one of Joburg’s main roads) that bad news surely must sell.  Because on every single lamp-post… there was attached at least two A2 posters (printed by the local newspapers) declaring some kind of tragedy or disaster.

Today – alone – these were the messages that lined the streets of Barry Hertzog Avenue:

  • GAUTENG IS DRUG CAPITAL.
  • ANC IS FALLING APART – ANALYSTS.
  • FURY AS MUSLIM’S ‘KILLER’ IS IN COURT.
  • COPS PERISH IN MINE TURF WAR.
  • DOPER STRIPPED OF GAMES GOLD.
  • COP MOWS DOWN MOM, KIDS.
  • BABY KILLERS GUILTY.
  • CHAOS AT TOP JOBURG HOSPITAL.
  • EPILEPTIC SEIZURE TRIGGERS TRAGEDY.
  • CAPE OF PROTESTS.
  • VIOLENCE SPIRALS AT LONMIN.
  • COSATU PLANS TO UNSEAT VAVI.
  • FURY AT “SECRET” BEARD TRIAL.
  • DOCTORS AGHAST AT NEW ‘FEES’.
  • MOORD BY PLAAS HEK (MURDER AT FARM GATE)
  • KOMMER OOR PRYS VAN OLIE (CONCERN OVER PRICE OF OIL)
  • THUG’S MOM: HIS COFFIN IS READY.
  • CREDO: MZANZI WILL BURN.

This… let me make it clear… is only on ONE road… on ONE day.  Every single lamp post – screaming negativity and alarmist viewpoints at motorists driving down Barry Hertzog Avenue… with words like “TERROR!”, “FURY!”, “CHAOS!” and “TRAGEDY!”.  You can’t ignore them – they’re so in-your-face, it’s impossible to ignore them!  And it’s enough to put anyone in a miserable mood.  Even me.

Thankfully – I work from home.  So, I am not subjected to a barrage of negativity – shoved in my face daily for the sole purpose of selling newspapers.  (We have turfed the television set for the same reason).  But many people commute every morning… and spend five days a week, every week, driving down Joburg’s main roads – and every day, they are subjected to this visual onslaught.  Additionally, with each new day, motorists are treated to a whole range of NEW bad news.  The posters are updated twice daily… ugh!

I don’t think I’d have much of a sense of humour if I were driving to work… every day… along a road lined with doom and gloom.

Today, I found only ONE lamppost announcement that actually had something positive to say.  It said:

WELCOME HOME, TEAM SA.

Referring, of course, to our Olympic athletes who have just arrived home.

Why does it have to be this way?

The local newspapers barrage us with these “headlines” for one reason – and the reason is this:  Apparently, bad news sells.  Apparently we, the general public, are addicted to tragedy and scandal and we BUY newspapers that contain stories of misery and suffering.  Maybe South Africans (already prone to whinging obsessively about how the country is doomed, how everything has gone down the poo-hole, how there’s no future for our children, how terrible and loathsome things are – and how we should all move to New Zealand because the grass is greener, the skies are bluer, the world is safer and we’d all live happily ever after)… maybe all the bad news serves as some kind of I-told-you-so… some kind of justification for all the whinging and complaining.

Maybe, for some of us, the bad news and the ensuing miserable, negative outlook on life has become a part of our identity…(?)

Or maybe the newspaper publishers are just getting desperate.  This is, after all, the Information Age where everyone has a cell phone, a laptop or an iPad – and any and all news – both local and international – can easily be accessed online.  Why pay money for printed tat when I can go online and access Al Jazeera or News24… for free!?

Perhaps that’s what this is.  The publishers are doing anything and everything in their power to get the public to buy their newspapers.  And for some reason, they obviously believe that branding our public spaces with negative, miserable headlines is a tactic that works.

My question is:  does it work?

Does it work for you?  Do you read a gruesome headline attached to a lamp post and immediately think:  “I MUST stop at the shop and buy The Times.  I want to know more about those farm murders!”… or “Omigosh!  The Muslims are furious?  I must buy a copy of the Star so I can read all about it!”

How wonderful it would be if the newspaper publishers surprised us all – and occasionally lined the streets with good news, happy stories… and funny stories… and uplifting stories…. and instead of words like “CHAOS!” and “TERROR!” and “FURY!”… that they used words like “GLEE!” and “HILARIOUS!” and “HAPPY!”.

But – that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.