The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales has urged the media to promote values such as good neighbourliness and citizenship as a future government struggles to deal with the national deficit.
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, warned the country faced a "time of austerity" after the General Election in which good deeds such as voluntary work and neighbourliness would be in demand more than ever.
The media could help by using its "enormous power" to address the "real underlying needs" of society, he said, and this could mean "reining" in an instinctive desire on the part of the industry for scandal and conflict.
An "unremitting" diet of bad news lowers mutual esteem and breeds cynicism and world weariness, he said last night in a lecture to mark Catholic World Communications Day.
"It wearies us, even as it might spice our lives with initial entertainment, it corrodes our sense of the fundamental goodness of each other," he said. "It lowers our mutual esteem and breeds in us a cynicism and world-weariness that takes the edge off even the most generous and inspiring of actions."
In his address, the Archbishop said the media had served the common good "well" through exposure of abuses such as the Parliamentary expenses scandal.
But in an apparent reference as well to the press coverage of the child abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, he warned the media faced "difficult" judgments as to when a line had been "crossed" between exposing the failures of some and denigrating "everyone" associated with an institution.
"The media, I would suggest, have a role and a responsibility in sustaining trust where that is justified and in portraying generosity and the spirit of service, even when it is to be found in an institution which is at the same time under suspicion," he said.
He added that the religious belief was one of the most "powerful ways" in which good was "deepened and unlocked" in society. The media could help by dispelling ignorance about religion in Britain which can lead to people believing "uncritically" that religious faith and practice is a problem.
"The evidence suggests otherwise, that it has a positive role to play not least in building up a stronger sense of social solidarity," he added.