This has been a sad month in news. A young boy died at Arctic Man, a Fairbanks teen is in the hospital after he had a heart attack on campus, the horror of the Boston Marathon, and now an explosion in a Texas fertilizer plant.
In journalism, we often follow the mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads.” Basically, tragedies can equal good front page stories. When I was an intern at a local TV news station, the News Editor and I heard a call on the police scanner, asking for an ambulance to pick up a man with chest pains. I looked at the editor to ask if that counted as news that I could cover and he scoffed and said, “I don’t care about chest pains unless they’re caused by multiple gunshot wounds.”
He wasn’t saying that he wanted someone to get shot, but that’s the nature of the business.
When you pick up a newspaper, you get to the ‘World’ section and often see countries on the brink of bankruptcy, poverty, famine or war. But if reporters and readers only see the negative side of life, they’ll be blind to all the positives.
News should be well rounded, covering both the good and the bad. In this class, we’ve covered mostly light news like events on campus and profiles of interesting people. Hopefully those skills will transfer to the real world. We want to tell good stories, we want to have juicy headlines that make people click and like and share. But sometimes the lead is awful; a shooting, explosion, or anything else with flashing lights and sirens.
There are some newspapers that don’t cover any of that. But I know why people slow down on the highway when they pass a wreck, why crowds gather at apartment fires and bank robberies. It’s because people want to know what’s going on. Like it or not, as a journalist I need to cover these stories. That’s why when the fire alarm went off in the Wood Center last week, my first thought was of my camera and how I could cover the story.
No, the Upbeat Times wouldn’t cover that story. But I know that people just want to know what’s going on. Besides, in every tragic story, there’s something good happening. You just have to search for it and report it.