Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Positive, negative, news

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a teacher at an Auburn High School. The teacher started the conversation with, "Why don't you ever write anything positive about about the high school?"
I was taken aback. I just cover stories as they come to me. Someone gives me a tip about the regional high school robotics team taking top honors at the Northern California tournament I cover it. Teachers get laid off, I cover it.
I've actively covered the local schools mass exodus to charter status, which I don't see in a positive or negative light. It's just what they are doing.
This irate teacher's critique of my work is I'm over looking all the teachers and students doing excellent work. I tried to explain we only have a small staff and we only want to cover things that are newsworthy. Teens are expected to do well in school and go on to college or into a vocation. We can't cover every high school senior who gets and A on a biology exam.

His complain was I covered two students getting so drunk on campus an ambulance was called to assist. He didn't consider it news. However several people within the community thought someone had been stabbed, and my editors felt we needed to clarify the situation.

Here's another things about "positive stories," a positive story about kids in a robotics competition or an after school program bringing the continuation school student's grades up gets about 500 views and one comment, that story about the kids getting drunk and school - 1,477 views and 44 comments. Teacher layoff story, 1,891 views and 21 comments.

Even my story about a Pez collector, fluffy, fun, positive, only attracted 800 unique visitors and no one thought it was interesting enough to comment on.

My news-brief about a Sacramento woman who took her own life on the Foresthill bridge got more page views than any other article the paper has published since the website redesign, 10,588 views, and 80 comments.

So the question stands should I go out of my way to find positive, fun, fluffy stories when people don't like reading them? Or should I continue on as usual covering the stories that come my way without much thought to if they will anger a high school teacher?

My stories at the AJ


Epic Soup said...

It's true. When people are looking at the news they're looking for what the latest crisis/disaster is. Not for something that makes them feel positive and happy. That's what fictional literature and cooking blogs are for.

Forevermelody said...

Believe me, if I had the choice to write about cooking and literature instead of crime and budgets, I'd choose cooking and literature.
But that's not what I'm paid to do. :(

Keriann said...

Tell the teacher to BE the change he wants to see in the news!

Emily said...

It's a bit sad that people aren't quite as interested in the happy fluffy stuff. Maybe that's because life is rather mundane and sometimes fluffy as it is. People also meet their fluffy needs with fluffy movies. I guess people just go to different sources for a variety of entertainment. :)
But now you don't have to suffer the fools since you don't work at AJ anymore! woo hoo!

p.s. I love Keriann's comment :)


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