Milk, Bacon and Julie Andrews. All "good news" stories, right?

So now it is o.k. to drink whole milk. Isn't that one of those news stories which starts with the phrase "good news for......". It's a much over-used phrase in journalism, and here's why.

An hour after I read that whole milk is good for you after all, a friend sent me this story about the 116 year old woman from Alabama who's enjoyed bacon every day of her life.


Susannah Mushatt Jones - Photo AP

Susannah Mushatt Jones - Photo AP

One of the world's biggest purveyors of dead animals, Oscar Mayer, promptly sent her a huge consignment to celebrate the reversal of decades of scientific research and dietary advice, and help the "good news" along.

So it is good news for bacon lovers, milk lovers, the meat industry, dairy cows, and lazy headline and intro writers. But as my former BBC colleague John Cole used to say "Good news is an advertiser's concept" and the phrase is to be avoided. And it's not just an awful cliche. It's especially prevalent in financial reporting, where the journalists should be acutely aware that in this unfair world someone's gain is invariably someone else's loss. I'm weary of radio news anchors who express unbridled relief and happiness when the Dow Jones rises: "Good News on Wall Street, here's Victor......"

In this case, Oscar Mayer's gain is clearly a loss to the world-wide pig "community", and for those people seeking better farming and more humane practices in the bacon industry. How do the pigs themselves feel about it, one wonders? In similar vein, what future now for skimmed and low-fat milk and the workers who produce them?

There are those who disagree with me. Scanning the Good News Network is a great parlor game for exploding the myth of the goose and the gander. Today they celebrate Julie Andrews at 80, and highlight many of our favorite things. Nothing to argue about there, then.

Julie Andrews - The Good News Network

Julie Andrews - The Good News Network

But for me, especially when it comes to economic and financial stories, it's a phrase which can, and should be - avoided by good journalists, because it is rarely true of serious news.

Mark McDonald