ONE MORE TIME
Comment & Observation
By Joe Lee III
Recently a good friend of mine asked if we could run more “good” news in the paper.
My immediate answer was (and is) I would love to.
The problem is two-fold. There is something about the human psyche that seems to give more weight to bad news than to good news. I had a journalism professor tell me one time that the phenomenon was related to cave dwelling days.
“Good news is warm and fuzzy, but back then caveman was more interested in whether there was a wild animal on the loose for him to eat — or vice versa,” he said. “Sometimes, by the time the editor chiseled the story onto a slate and threw at the cave opening,” he added sarcastically added, “It might be too late!”
After my discussion with my friend, I measured a recent edition. We had 71 column inches of bad news and 938 column inches of good news.
The bad news included a story about a county shooting investigation, a follow-up story on a city shootout, and a third of a page of Arrest and Incident Reports.
The good news included photos and stories about the soup kitchen raising $4,500, the annual St. Nicholas Treasure Chest for kiddies’ toys, Grenada’s Veterans’ Day observance, school honor roll, Police Officer of the Month, and Editorials about job growth, a visit to a new hotel in Oxford, and a cancer survivor.
I did not know how to categorize the obituaries, so I left them out of the measurements. The edition also had homecoming representatives in pretty dresses, a interesting column about going to a movie 50 years ago, and a listing of free community services. I counted the sports pages as good news, there may be some argument there – depending on which team you like.
We published our annual Turkey Tangle contest that draws hundreds of entries each year. The Mini-Page is a syndicated feature we purchase for our young readers. It is good news. On the back page we featured a Girl Scout troop cleaning land around Grenada Lake and a listing of upcoming events.
Our quick analysis came up with about 7% bad news and 92% “good,” or at least “not bad” news.
The edition prior to that one, on Nov. 3, featured a large front-page story which, in my opinion, largely repudiated a very negative story that had appeared a few days earlier in the Jackson paper concerning our local hospital. The Nov. 3 edition also had 16-page section bragging about local industries.
I was actually surprised to see the heavy positive slant in the two editions, because I, like my buddy, I was snagged by the “bad” news.
Of course, part of the problem is the bad news is almost always more sensational than good news. That’s why it leads the television newscasts, gets posted on Facebook (sometimes reported correctly), and, of course, and makes the front page of most newspapers.
When we send out a news bulletin via e-mail and text message, the hits on GrenadaStar.com soar. When the headline is bad, news rack sales go up. When there is a bad wreck, people invariably ask me, “why didn’t you have photos of that wreck.”
The coffee drinkers never ask me about who didn’t drown on Grenada Lake last weekend. (Did you know Grenada has had no lake fatalities since the new rules requiring the wearing of life jackets went into effect – save for two boaters who did not follow the rules?)
At the newspaper, we have news meetings early Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We discuss what has happened and how best to cover it.
We’ll try to look for more good news to push harder.
If you have any good news, give us a call!