Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
I’m sort of a dinosaur when it comes to the modern-day sensational reporting around us.
I spend far more time on issues stories than I do on stories about the personal foibles of our local politicians or whatever the latest bad thing is that happened in our community.
I have always thought that issues facing our community, or our state and the nation, are more important than the private lives of people who are in public life. I guess that makes me a dinosaur compared to some of my colleagues.
I see from our readership numbers on Facebook, though, that these stories I spend a lot of time on are not necessarily the stories that people click on and read. Readers often tend to click on crime stories or other bad news.
Perhaps we are in an era where readers have an appetite only for stories about “the next bad thing.” If so, that’s a pity.
I don’t blame the readers. In fact, if I went to work one day and received an award, and on the way home, I had car trouble, which would I mention first when I got in the door? It might be the car trouble, as I could be very upset about it.
That said, there are still as many “good” stories on our website, more than the “bad” stories. It’s people’s perceptions, sometimes, that there is more bad news than good news.
And I continue to spend more time on the neutral or good stories, reading through documents and trying to present information to the public, than I do on the “bad” stories.
As a student journalist back in the 1970s, I was always more interested in issue stories, such as some law that would affect students, or the latest proposal the student government was considering, than covering all the bad things people are doing to each other.
That’s how it should be. News that is affecting the most people is more important in the long run than news affecting individuals.
I go back to a time when we never really did very many stories about people’s private lives. I don’t much like the way coverage seems to be just centered around this now.
I also admired Patty Dysart’s Armourdale political forums, where she told candidates to tell what they were going to do if they get elected, not to criticize the person they’re running against. That was good advice. A shouting match or a bunch of accusations never accomplishes anything. It doesn’t provide the essential information voters need to know about where the candidates stand on the issues. Stuff about the candidates’ personal lives is just a distraction, often, from the real issues of the campaign.
Were you more worried about Hillary’s emails or about Donald’s tax returns than about their positions on the issues in the last presidential election? Then maybe you weren’t voting according to how their stands on the issues will affect your own life.
“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” Mark Twain once wrote. That probably applies today to Kansas City, Kansas, where a lot of people apparently are wanting to change other people’s habits. Maybe they should work on themselves first.
It’s possible that some things we see in this election season will be indications of someone trying to get someone else back for something that happened in the past. They would do well to remember John Milton’s comment, “He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”
Typically, in the election season some people will try to persuade journalists to do hatchet jobs on various opponents. Some of the reporters see the motivation in back of this and try to avoid being drawn into the middle of these manufactured stories. In an evaluation of the issues, personal attacks have no place. In logic class, they were called “ad hominem” fallacies.
It’s true, at this tiny publication I really do not have the time to spend on all these manufactured crises aimed at getting someone elected. It’s also true that I really don’t want to do them.
Sometimes readers would like to tell us that they think my job is to go out and report as much negative stuff as I can find about people, particularly about elected officials. I don’t think that’s my job. Although occasionally I do these sorts of stories, it’s not my idea of what I should do. I think it’s mostly a waste of time to get into the middle of these unimportant political disputes and personal accusations.
It’s my job to tell people about the things that really matter to the most people.
If that makes me a dinosaur, so be it.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.