If I had a dime for every time someone told me he doesn’t like all that bad news newspapers always print, I would be writing this column from someplace tropical. In reality, we don’t focus on bad news, but it’s true that bad events are often the most newsworthy.
If I had a dime for every time someone told me he doesn’t like all that bad news newspapers always print, I would be writing this column from someplace tropical.
In reality, we don’t focus on bad news, but it’s true that bad events are often the most newsworthy. When was the last time you read a headline that said something like, “Nobody at all murdered in town this week”?
Something that is a departure from the ordinary equals news. Your house hasn’t burned down in the 20 years you’ve lived there and we’ve never written about it. But the first time the thing catches on fire, there we are with a camera.
Quite a bit of the news is, in fact, good news: births, weddings, anniversaries, business grand openings, honor rolls — all good news.
Other times, we are obliged to write about tragic subjects, like young people dying in car wrecks. These stories are all the more sad when we find that the teens who died or who were injured had been drinking or using drugs — and it’s sadder still when you know the kids or their family. Nobody likes writing these stories, but we know it’s an important part of covering the news.
One can only imagine what life would be like if we did not cover things that were sad or unpleasant. If these subjects were shrouded in mystery and we had to depend on word-of-mouth rumors to determine how prevalent things like teen-driving accidents and drug use are, our ability to address these problems would be severely hindered.
When we cover an inquest, it’s never a happy event. Inquests aren’t held to celebrate the life of a happy old lady who peacefully died in her sleep the evening of her 100th birthday party. They take place after the kind of death in which there’s some question as to the cause.
I remember the year my county had 15 teen traffic fatalities. It began to feel as if every day there was a new sad story to write. Journalists are used to writing about death, but it doesn’t mean we’re not affected by it.
Besides the traffic deaths, there were a handful of other young people’s deaths because of other causes that took place around that year, including one we all knew personally because she was the daughter of a co-worker. That didn’t change our coverage. We had a job to do, and we did it.
I’ve had people ask what I would do if it were my loved one in the paper for a tragic or embarrassing reason? The answer is, I’d delegate the responsibility to a colleague and would expect them to treat the story the same as any other.
In newspapers, as in life, you’ll find both the good and the bad. As long as we live in an imperfect world, that’s how it’s going to stay.
Editor Michelle Teheux may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Pekin Daily Times in Illinois.