The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Tales of a coffee-holic: Breaking bad news

 


I have no patience for people who attempt to completely ignore the unpleasant things that happen in life.

I totally believe that sensationalism in the news is wrong and that constant streams of stories about murders and explosions is not a fair representation of what’s happening in the world. But bad things do happen often and people need to know about it.

I recently reconnected with a very close friend from high school on Facebook. We exchanged quite a few lengthy messages talking about what was new in our lives before I told her about some not so pleasant things going on with my family. She abruptly stopped speaking to me. I’m a pretty honest person. I’m not one to sugarcoat things.

Some people have a hard time dealing with unpleasant circumstances and choose not to. I usually feel that these people are ones who haven’t experienced many unpleasant circumstances personally.

I totally agree that news coverage should include positive stories as well as ones about crime and corruption. This is a fair representation of what life is and that’s what the news should reflect. However, when I hear that we have too many crime stories in the paper, I have to answer that it’s because there’s crime happening in the community and the public needs to hear about it.

My responsibility isn’t to coddle my readers, but to inform them. I have to admit that in a town of 7,000 with perhaps thousands more people stopping through and working here during the day, with one print news reporter some positive stories have to be dropped, simply due to time constraints.

I think those that don’t want to read negative news are the ones that state, “I never thought it would happen to me” when something bad happens to them. Denying that bad things happen in the world only makes it harder to deal with when something unfortunate happens to you.

The public needs to know about crime so they can protect themselves from it, so they can encourage their law enforcement officials to do something about it. So they can protect their children from it. The public needs to know about unethical practices in government (I’m not implying that I’ve seen any here) so they can change it.

Of course when a company or individual does something nice for someone else, the public deserves to know about that as well. Balance is key.

But, if you’re concerned about the amount of negative stories in the news I will tell you right now that stories about unpleasant events are the ones that sell papers. It’s astounding how bare our racks are during a murder trial. Whether you admit it or not, negative stories are what the public wants. My job is to find the balance between what the public wants and what it needs.

Although I think we do live in a community full of wonderful, generous people and groups that do all sorts of positive things, no one can claim that any community faces no problems. Crime and unpleasant things happen, and if you don’t believe it you’re living outside reality.

 

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