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Good news, bad news

POSTED August 29, 2009 11:53 a.m.
Almost every week I get a phone call from someone who asks, “Do you cover good news?” I always answer, “Yes, of course we do.” These callers then proceed to give me a story idea about a local club event, interesting person or outstanding student.
While I appreciate getting any and all local news tips, it irks me that people have to ask if we cover “good” news. As every community newspaper editor knows, feel-good stories are the third most popular articles. And knowing this, the Journal always runs a number of “good” news stories, along with “bad” news and “neutral” news stories.
In the Aug. 26 issue of the Journal, we ran stories about shootings in the Denny’s restaurant parking lot and at a Keyes birthday party (bad news), a story about Michael Berryhill announcing his candidacy for Congress (neutral news), and a story about retiring teachers being honored by the Turlock Unified School District (good news).
In fact, we covered five “good” news stories, three “bad” news stories and four “neutral” news stories in the A section of Aug. 26 issue, not including the Opinion page, obituaries, event listings or sports. That seems like a pretty good mix to me.
I stated above that good news stories are the third most popular articles. The second most popular articles are — you’ll never guess — the obituaries. Births and deaths are important milestones in every community. And that is why the Journal does not charge for obituaries.
That leaves only one slot left. The most popular newspaper stories are — you guessed it — crime and tragedy. There is an old editor’s saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.” While crude, the saying is true. Major auto accidents, fires, shootings, stabbings and tragedies of all kinds are what readers will read first.
Most readers, I believe, are not interested in crime stories just for morbid curiosity. People are invested in their communities and want to know what is going on. It is the job of the community newspaper to keep residents informed of the good and the bad happening in their town. It would be a disservice to the community ignore a shooting that occurred in a public place.
Often after a story about a crime or tragedy happens at a local business, I receive an angry phone call from the business owner. They want to know why we ran a story about a crime that happened at their place of business. Many times I have listened to irate store managers tell me how much money they are losing because we ran a “bad” news story that involved their business. I have had business owners demand we run an apology in the paper for causing some of their customers to think that their business is unsafe to visit. Our news coverage is not what gives people the idea that their business is unsafe, the crime itself is what drives customers away.
I can’t help what people think after reading the facts of a crime story. If a crime happens on the property of your business, then the business name is going to appear in the paper. What kind of news story reports a crime happening “somewhere on Lander Avenue” rather than stating the business name and location?
When it comes to reporting “bad” news, the Journal does not discriminate. When a former Journal reporter was convicted of the identity theft of a Stanislaus County Supervisor, we reported the news, which included the fact that she used to work for us.
The news is the news — the good, the bad and the neutral.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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