A content analysis of more than 3400 news items published in national and regional Dutch (quality) newspapers, in combination with ethnographic audience and production research, has allowed us to explain when, how and why news can hurt. A longitudinal ethnographic case study of two highly mediatized urban areas shows how residents claim to lose touch with everyday reality as a result of continuous one-dimensional and sensationalized news coverage of their neighbourhood. This case study also illuminates how participatory media enable residents to negotiate, make sense of and give meaning to alternative, more "realistic" readings of everyday life. Finally, the research suggests how professional journalistic routines might have to change in order to prevent news from being unnecessarily painful: from citizen participation to citizen facilitation, from an accent on negative news and a critical tone of voice to doing justice to the multilayered reality of neighbourhoods, from a focus on extraordinary events to explaining everyday occurrences. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.