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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017

Backhanded compliments

Posted 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.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]


I would bet that the number who feel like this person are in the extreme minority regarding the T-G. The national news is another matter and sometimes that affects our our perceptions in other arenas.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jan 10, 2008, at 7:43 PM

I guess I'm glad that good things aren't as "newsworthy" as atrocities and tragedies.

I admit I've wished for headlines like "D & D player finds cure for Ebola" or "Fundamentalist Pastor wins marathon" but the media coverage you offer seems about as balanced as reality will permit.

If people want to see more positive articles in the paper,might I suggest two things?

1.Make/report more good news.

2.Pay for more pages with ads and subscriptions.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Jan 11, 2008, at 1:04 PM

When a news story on the front page has a good hearted story or good news on it, papers are in every newsbox all over town. But just let something bad happen you have to search for a newsbox that has papers.

So this tells me Bad News sells newspapers and after all isn't that what you are in business to do?

Isn't that why you print the jail intake, divorces, Obits..that's what people want to read. I know people who buy a newspaper everyday and all they read are the Obits and jail intake.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Jan 11, 2008, at 10:19 PM

The T-G probably has more missions-minded stories than any newspaper I know anything about. It's a good thing when we can read good, positive stories and feel good about the world we live in for a few minutes. It doesn't happen often enough.

Unfortunately, people in general tend to be negative. I'm sure the person who gave the "backhanded compliment" intended to be positive. They just couldn't help throwing in a little negativity… its human nature.

John, you do a great job and have for years. If you have a journalistic fault it could be that you tend to be a little too sensitive or defensive when it comes to criticism of yourself or especially your fellow reporters. I would think that after 22˝ years your skin would be getting a little thicker. Keep up the good work.

-- Posted by Farmer Bill on Sat, Jan 12, 2008, at 9:40 AM

I would personally like to know more about the growth and future plans of Shelbyville... For instance, tell us what those "important people" who meet up once in a blue moon are doing to attract more businesses to this county.

I don't think the paper is horrible, but I do notice how the same folks usually appear in "what the T-G bloggers are saying"... The sports section has always been commendable, but with a little more effort to educate the county on coming attractions, and potential growth would only benefit the paper.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Sat, Jan 12, 2008, at 4:15 PM

I can relate to what darrick said also. But I also would like to see follow up stories on things that have been published in the past. Like the lady in Murfreeboro (I think she was the mother in law to Dr Barnes) I'd Like to know what is happening with her. Did they ever find her or have any clues to where this lady might be or what?

There are so many articles that have been published that kind of just leave you hanging never knowing what the outcome is, it would be nice to know if the kids you feature sometimes that are sick and in need of medical treatment are doing better.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Sat, Jan 12, 2008, at 5:44 PM

Agree Dianatn!!!

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Sun, Jan 13, 2008, at 8:18 PM

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John I. Carney
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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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