News is a common source of anxiety, as it tends to be bad. Indeed, we live in an era of bad news. But has there ever been one of good news? Still, today the absolute majority of news is bad, except for a rare few tearjerkers. But what’s interesting, says Ilya Krasilshchik, is that it’s not about how bad they are, but how much people expect them to make their lives worse – and this is a global issue.

Every day, people read the news to find out if the world still hasn’t ended. The anticipation of an apocalypse is a trait of not just the 21st century, but the entire human civilization. But there was a time when this anticipation wasn’t fueled by thousands of outlets all over the globe, reporting at every instant whether it has begun or not.

“All of this, of course, is amplified by the specifics of living in Russia; on average, we have more bad news to report on than in the countries we like to compare ourselves with. A big influence here is the issue of anticipation. It hasn’t always been like this. Back when I worked at Afisha (Krasilshchik was the editor-in-chief of Afisha magazine in 2008-2013 – Ed.), we had a mission/idea that was quite the opposite – “it’ll be better”. It was a time of great hopes, and we all expected things to change. At some point, something went wrong – and most of all in our heads. It became clear that many things won’t get better simply because our efforts aren’t enough. Even the “small deeds theory”, which states that you can just work on a small, local level and usher in new life, has proven fruitless. Afisha’s idea was that we’d put some of the news “in parentheses”. Turns out, life isn’t complete without it.” – he explains.

Ilya Krasilshchik's lecture at Creative Mornings. Credit:
Ilya Krasilshchik's lecture at Creative Mornings. Credit:

Crisis of empathy

It’s easier to write about news than to read them; when you write, it’s only your job, but when you read it – it’s your life. Living in this paradigm of bad news, we’ve developed an immunity that could be dubbed the “crisis of empathy”. The worse things are, the more we get used to them, and so we are only taken aback by something that hasn’t occurred before. And when it does, we’re shocked – but only until it happens again. As soon as it repeats, we become used to it. This propagates the idea that everything has to get worse – and this principle exists in the minds of both the readers and the journalists. Their task is to make an impression, and so news stories have to become more striking and resonant with each time. It’s a process that’s dangerous for society, because it makes us less sensitive.

Tips on handling bad news from Meduza’s editorial office

Treat it with humor

Irony saves, and laughter cleanses. Irony and humor lift the writers and the readers above the circumstances; they make us feel above the nonsense happening around us. Our goal is to tell people that terrible things happen around us, but that most of them aren’t done by villains – they’re done by idiots. There is more absurdity and stupidity around us than there is actual, conscious evil. Laughter and a reasonable outlook can be a great way to deal with that. Still, not everything has to be reported on with humor – sometimes it’s enough to just inform people of the things that are happening.


It might seem that bad news and games are incompatible, but this, too, can be helpful. All news are somewhat virtual; they rarely affect us directly. What happens around you is only as relevant as you decide, so this is something you can control. On the other hand, you still have to be aware of things. And gamification is one of the ways to do that.

Ilya Krasilshchik's lecture at Creative Mornings. Credit:
Ilya Krasilshchik's lecture at Creative Mornings. Credit:

Explain things

A journalist’s task is to help us solve the issues we all have. How to live in today’s world, how to lead your life – these are questions that media answers. When the Meduza editorial office was working on the book “How to Live”, they realized just how diverse life is. The book has tips on “how to pet a cat” and “how to cook the perfect lunch”, but it also tells readers what to do when the police are knocking on their door. These are the different facets of our lives, and the press helps us deal with them.

No shame in ignorance

Today, Meduza’s staff is trying to communicate to their readers: “It’s okay not to know something, we’ll explain”. The editorial office operates on the presumption that everyone knows nothing and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of the time, a lack of interest towards things – or a fear of them – is caused by a lack of knowledge. People are often blamed for not knowing things. Of course, there is a degree of personal responsibility, but if someone isn’t aware of current events, it’s the fault of the newspaper, says Krasilshchik. One constant issue with news is that it exists on the presumption of awareness: every news story exists in a context, and it is always assumed that people are familiar with it. People who produce these stories do it in a “stream”, as it’s rare that something is so short-lived that a story has both a beginning and an end. When reporting on a developing story, it’s hard to keep in mind that there are people who have only started reading it now. Sometimes one must take two steps back and explain what it’s all about. This is the purpose of Meduza’s “Awkward Questions” section, where journalists ask such questions – and answer them, too.

The best way to fight bad news is to understand that all good news today is about how humans are stronger than their circumstances. Bad things are weak – and we’re strong.