Like most people, I don’t like bad news.
As Press Publications’ public safety reporter for northern Ramsey County, it is my job to report a fair amount of bad news. (However, contrary to popular belief, I am not the reporter who wrote the funny sheriff’s reports. Crime isn’t funny to me.)
I’ve had people tell me to stop reporting bad news; they don’t want to hear that it is happening in their quaint, lovely suburb. But let me try to explain why reporting bad news can be good for the community.
The point of reporting on crime, accidents and other bad news is not to shame those caught or make readers feel like their community is in trouble. The point is to educate and remind people of the consequences of crime and carelessness. Everyone makes unwise choices at one time or another. Reporting on them prevents more bad news from happening.
Imagine growing up in a community where crime and accidents are reported in the local newspaper. You hear your parents talking about it at the breakfast table. As you are learning to drive, you learn how devastating speeding, texting and driving, or drunk driving can be. This isn’t just a theory in class anymore or something on TV. Someone down the street is affected. You drive more carefully.
Theft, drugs, trafficking, assault and murder: What if local newspapers didn’t acknowledge it? We’d live in a community in denial while crime and corruption grew steadily in the dark.
I understand that hearing and seeing bad news can be tiring and cause people to respond in fear. However, I would like to remind you that bad news makes headlines when it is not an everyday occurrence. People don’t get murdered every week in your town. Youth don’t die on the way to school every week. If they did, it would cease to make headlines. That would be really bad news.
My first reporter job was in Williston, North Dakota during the oil boom six years ago. All the media outlets in the country seemed interested in the black gold rush. It seemed that the further away the media outlets came from, the more dramatic the news became. There was a lot of good news in Williston. There was also some really bad news. Those who read the Williston Daily Herald knew that the good news outweighed the bad.
Local newspapers offer a more realistic picture of the extent of bad news than metro and national broadcast media, radio or newspapers. Because they cover a larger area, it can seem the bad news just goes on and on. If you’re overwhelmed at the news, I suggest you tune in to your local newspaper.
When you engage with the news locally, it is easier to respond to the most important purpose behind reporting bad news — to care about those affected. I am not sure if it is humanly possible to consume the amount of bad news on social media and on TV and have the correct response. Most people feel overwhelmed or want to tune it out. There’s this thing called compassion fatigue.
But good news outweighs the bad on a local scale. Local bad news is also easier to digest. When you see that someone a few blocks away went through a fire, you can donate some essentials. When you hear that a local spa was shut down due to sex trafficking, you can join an action group. When someone dies in a tragic accident, you can reach out with condolences.
Bad news can make a community a better place to live, work and play.
Sara Marie Moore is editor of the Shoreview Press and Vadnais Heights Press. She can be reached at 651-407-1235 or email@example.com.