This week, I had an email back and forth with one of our Wick editors that gave me pause.
I wrote him to say that I thought he had been taken in by some PR spin. An industry lobbyist brought a celebrity to town and organized a tour of industry sites. Predictably, that celebrity cooed lovingly about tthe industry that was footing the bill and the local newspaper ate it up.
The editor answered without apology that he is happy to paint his community in a positive light. He could have been speaking about many of our markets when he said that there are plenty of curmudgeon’s taking pot shots at the place; he thinks it’s his job to present the good news whenever good news presents itself.
Sorry to be a bit obtuse. I’m purposely not identifying the editor nor the newspaper because it’s this issue of “positive coverage” that I want to address and it applies to all of us.
I am all about positive coverage. For several reasons.
First, there is no other way to run a news organization in most of our markets. We don’t have newspapers in New Orleans or Detroit or other like places where you could fill the pages, day in and day out, with murder, corruption and other tales of woe. Lake Havasu, Pierre, Green Valley – these are wonderful places to live, where good people volunteer their time for the good of others. We live in places where the people care about each other, where the wonders of nature are too obvious to ignore.
Secondly, in order to paint a full, complete and correct picture of a place like Montrose, Colo., you would have to report on the success of the high school football team even as you write about terrible things, like an arrest in a cold murder case. To tell the truth, you have to write about the street fairs and the street fights. To ignore positive stories would be to ignore so much of what happens in our communities. No one is asking that you do that. …
Here’s another reason: We know our communities intimately. Sometimes the national media parachutes in and writes only about the sensational situation that brings tut-tuts from readers in New York. It’s up to us to paint by all the numbers, not sensationalize our troubles.
Having said that, we shouldn’t act like rubes either. Our readers are smart. They know when the chamber of commerce is leading us around on a leash.
Here’s what I suggest: Look for real good news. You’ll find it in people, not process or public relations. I’ll spare you some obvious suggestions, like holiday donations and school programs and youth sports. I know you are already doing that every day. Just do me a favor and separate the real good news from that which is spoonfed for a special interest.