Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's not all bad news!

If there's one common pet peeve that most people seem to have about the "media," it's that there are never any positive stories.

When I speak to civic clubs or other groups about the newspaper business, the question usually comes up: "Why do you print so much negative news? I never see anything positive in the paper."

Before I go to these speaking engagements, I always look at the last week's paper to make note of some "positive" stories that we have published. When I start listing these, people usually say: "Oh yeah, I remember that story."

The truth is, we do publish a lot of positive news. In fact, I would say most stories in the paper are either postive or nuetral.

Today's front page story about Ryan Yett, a Randall High School band member who is receiving a national honor, points this out.

It's a very positive story about an outstanding achievement. A great local story about an outstanding student. I think the Amarillo Globe-News does a better than average job of covering the achievements in the community by all types of individuals.

We have a weekly section called Our Town that is dedicated to nothing but postive news.

So why do people have the impression that the media is so negative. I have two theories:

1. Negative news is what we remember. It's what stays with us. When we have a traumatic event in our life, we often remember that far longer than a positive event. When I was a copy editor, I certainly remember more of the mistakes I made in writing headlines than those award-winning headlines (if there were any).

2. Readers actually want negative news in the paper and read it, but don't admit it. If you look at the top 5 stories each day on our web site, you'll see that many are "negative."

This came home to me even more when Dawn Dressler, executive editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, sent me the top 10 stories of the year on our web site:

Top news stories for the Year
1. Natural gas explosion rocks Bushland 11/05/09
2. English visitor shot and killed in Amarillo 11/06/09
3. Swingers' party protested 01/01/09
4. Wiccan to sit out two Christmas songs 12/12/09
5. Judge rules electric rate can increase 02/02/09
6. Mother of two knew abuse 04/21/09
7. State: Sterquell death a suicide 05/19/09
8. Trinity pastor resigns 08/07/09
9. Tourist killed at bar 11/07/09
10. Column - Norma White: You want change? Try these ideas 10/21/08

Guess what? I wouldn't say there is a positive one in the bunch.

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