How Do You React to “Bad News”?

Today the newspapers and web sites were full of headlines announcing “bad news” about New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican carried a front-page news story about the graduation rate for New Mexico’s students.

According to the report, New Mexico’s graduation rate went down to 68.5% for the 2013-14 school year, while nationally the rate rose to 81%. The data, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, shows New Mexico as the state with the lowest graduation rate—only the District of Columbia is worse.

Albuquerque Business First featured a story about employment rates.

According to this report, New Mexico’s unemployment rate was 6.8% in September, a 1% increase since August. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is seeing unemployment decline, sinking to 5.1% in September, down from 5.9% one year earlier.

And Joe Monahan on his blog featured a review of the ongoing story of policing in Albuquerque.

He pointed out a few statistics: The police response time for serious 911 calls has gone from 8 minutes and 56 seconds in 2010 to 10 minutes and 43 seconds in 2015. The number of calls went from 53,000 to 69,000. And then there are the millions of dollars paid out to victims of police misconduct.

Three stories, three different news sources, three items of “bad news.”

But why are they “bad news”?

Is it “bad news” because we don’t want to hear it? Because it makes us feel bad? Is it “bad news” because we end up feeling defensive about New Mexico—as if the news were somehow trying to shame us or blame us?

How do you react to “bad news”?

In the history of the United States, we’ve always reacted to “bad news” with more grit and determination. We’ve never asked to have it sugar-coated. We’ve always insisted on hearing the facts and then going to work to make things better.

Can you imagine what would have happened if, after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt had given a fire-side chat and said, “There’s a little bit of bad news about our fleet in Hawaii—but here’s the good news, they didn’t sink them all.”

It’s time we stopped thinking about “good news” and “bad news” and talked instead about facts and data and how we’re going to work together to make things better.

The data say we need to focus on our graduation rates; we need to start early and find ways to help New Mexico’s young people stay in school.

The data say that we have a jobs problem; we need to work with our small and medium size companies and with our aspiring entrepreneurs to produce more jobs all over the state.

The data say we have a problem of public safety—and not only in Albuquerque; we need better training, better equipment and a strategy of community policing to deal with drugs, domestic violence and other acts of violence.

It’s not good news or bad news to look at the facts and go to work. It’s Common Sense.