President Reagan's reproach of the news media for not accenting good news along with the bad may touch a responsive chord among many Americans. There is indeed a tendency of print and broadcast journalists to dwell on human tragedy, on crises, on difficulties often to the exclusion of the ''truly admirable things'' (i.e., private sector initiatives) which Mr. Reagan reminds us are being undertaken by the American people. The commercial purveying of ''gloom and doom'' sometimes seems ineradically imbedded in today's media culture.
Yet Mr. Reagan's pique against the press not only leaves the news media uneasy but should concern their audiences as well. Presidents and high aides often seem to take after the media when the news is not going their way, when their administrations are suddenly in hot water because of mismanagement or malfeasance. Recall former Vice-President Spiro Agnew who peevishly accused the television networks of bias and distortion - in an administration that was soon to be plotting criminal actions and an obstruction of justice.
Newsmen and newswomen do not have to defend freedom of the press. They know that reporting the bad, ferreting out wrongdoing, questioning authority are part of the democratic process, for an uninformed citizenry is an unengaged citizenry. They know that every chief executive marshals all the powerful means of communication at his disposal to present his administration in the best light and to ''sell'' his policies.
He should have that right, and the news media should cover the official view honestly and impartially. But someone has to play the probing skeptic in the interests of objectivity. The media would not be doing their jobs if they did not keep a prudent distance from government and report the adverse along with the positive.
No president can have it both ways: exploiting the news media to his advantage to get elected and to shape a favorable image of his administration, and castigating them when they seem overly critical. It is not, after all, the newsmen and newswomen who create unemployment, diplomatic crises, or a scandal at the Environmental Protection Agency. The way for public officials to get a good press is to provide good government.
However, the news media should not be too hasty to take umbrage. Instead they might reflect on why journalists are ranked so low in opinion polls. Could it be that the public thinks they are often too abrasive, too quick to malign, too ''all-knowing''? And that the media do choose to play up scandal over success, horror over the wholesome, and tragedy over attainment?
Certainly newspapers and TV networks, if they are pursuing fairness and truth , should strive for balance in their coverage. This does not mean ignoring the ugly and perverse in human experience but putting it in the context of the larger scene - a scene that also includes progress and achievement. And, judging from recent positive headlines - on a reviving economy, for one - the media report the latter much more often than the present administration seems to allow.
In any case, reporting the good news as well as the bad is not merely a matter of providing the public with thorough information and perspective. It goes deeper than that. It is a matter of contributing to that foundation of good on which a society alone can build healthy, enduring institutions; of encouraging a climate of buoyancy in which people's fears and discouragements can be shed; of countering the forces of negativism that work against a nation's exuberance and sense of dominion over its problems. This is not nam-by-pambyism, anymore than was the practice of those early indomitable Christians who even while they preached the good news - the gospel - spared no rebuke or exposure of all that was bad.
The news media no doubt can do better with good news. So can government.