You know, I use to argue tooth and nail that such WAS NOT the case. I spent countless hours in front of a classroom full of journalism students, chatting at parties and via Facebook posts telling anyone who would listen that journalists do not create the news, we just tell you what happened.
With my son now in his third year of college, his hefty tuition and dorm fees have forced me to again leave freelancing behind. Today, I am employed as a copyeditor for an upstate newspaper. I see a lot of how stories are chosen for each day's edition, which, of course, I already knew having worked at different times as a reporter, a photojournalist and an editor for newspapers before. I also have quite a bit of say as to what national and state stories run as well (although not so much for the local stories), but suffice to say that the process has started to make me see things on the "what news appears" front a bit differently.
We cover every single fire, accident, fatal situation (accidental or homicide), robbery and fraud story that happens in a five- and sometimes six-county area. Seriously, the local page looks like a who's who in area crime, with an occasional school board or town council meeting thrown in for good measure.
So am I saying that there is no good news that happens there ever? Reading the paper, you'd probably say "Yep."
I still stand by the adage that journalists do not make the news. But I also know that our obligation is to present a fair and accurate account of the goings-on. Fires, murders, rapes, robberies - they are EASY to find, because the police send a press release about it or info as to where the fire is happening comes directly to us via a scanner. We couldn't ignore it if we tried - but it definitely effects the "fair and balanced" part of the equation by presenting an image that is mostly bad. Sadly, my employer isn't the only media outlet doing that. (seriously, turn on the 5PM or 11PM television news and note the first 10 stories covered. I bet you money that 90% of them are bad news). The question I wish more producers and more editors would ask is this: Why is Breaking News - the stuff so important we must interrupt everything else to tell you about it - always, always, ALWAYS bad news? How about more of an effort to give us the not so bad news happening out there? Can't we spend even half the amount of time looking for the feel-good stuff - the boy scout walking the elderly lady across the street or the barber who runs a mentoring program for teens on the side - as we do the horrible tragedies?
Would it be so terrible to cover as much good news as bad news for a change?
The city where my employer is located is about 15 percent African-American, yet NOT ONE story of any Black History month event ran during the entire month of February. And not one feature or even minuscule coverage of a Women's History Month event ran during the whole of March either. Seriously - not one story at all. Not fair or balanced in IMHO.
I'm not saying that the bad stuff isn't news, but I think those of us who put that paper together have an obligation to find that balance by looking a whole lot harder for the good stuff. And one feature a week on the Life Section page barely scratches the surface...
What do you think: is the media becoming a beacon of bad news by covering all the scary stories but neglecting the good?