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Backhanded complimentsPosted Thursday, January 10, 2008, at 6:36 PM
My colleague Sadie Fowler had a terrific story in the paper about a local family performing relief work worldwide.
Someone left a story comment on the web site, praising the story but then turning it into a backhanded compliment, along the lines of "why can't we see more of this in the T-G?"
I'm always a little puzzled and hurt (yes, hurt) when people give us the backhanded compliment of saying that something is "good news, for a change" or "let's see more of this."
Our newspaper contains plenty of good, upbeat, positive material, and always has, for the entire 22 1/2 years I've worked here. Sometimes the items appear on the front page, sometimes they're inside. Sometimes they're detailed, carefully-researched profiles; sometimes they're snapshots of a particular good deed or charitable event. Whatever form it takes, if you look at any issue of the T-G you will find more positive than negative.
The Desana story is far from the only good news that's appeared in the newspaper this week. We've run stories about a Shakespeare Festival planned in Bell Buckle, about a grant that will enable the Tony Rice Center to reach out to people with problems, about the first baby of the New Year. We've run club meetings and charitable donations and on Friday we will publicize a variety of church activities.
It may be that people pay closer attention to the negative. If we had five stories about honor students in the newspaper in a given week, and one story about a teen who committed some horrible crime, I can tell you which one people would be talking about over the water cooler -- but that wouldn't be the newspaper's fault, would it? It's sad when people take things for granted, but then again, maybe it says something about our community that charity is the norm, and not the outrageous, everyone-is-talking surprise.
I have remarked on several occasions that we probably have more coverage of foreign mission trips (I don't know whether the group Sadie profiled uses that term, but their work is at least in the same vein) than any other news outlet in the state. We've won national recognition for at least one of those stories. Anyone who knows me knows that foreign missions is a passion for me.
I spent a good part of today working on material for our annual United Way special section, which will be published next week. That's one of many ways we document, every single day, the good being done in this community every single day.
We are a newspaper. It's our job to cover the community, the good and the bad. Sometimes, negative stories are important -- not for the purpose of dwelling on them, but for the purpose of knowing what our situation is so that we can try to change it, or at least react to it. Positive stories are important as well; they give us something to aspire to. We're always happy to get suggestions about people whose achievements we can celebrate in the newspaper.
That's why we include both the positive and the negative, always have, and always will.
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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.