No matter how you look at it, its been impossible to avoid the run of bad news in recent weeks: law enforcement officers killed in Missouri and Kansas, the Connecticut school massacre, Jovan Belchers murder/suicide rampage, children caught in the line of fire.
By DEREK DONOVAN
The Kansas City Star
Journalists must report the news, obviously. But I also have great sympathy for the readers who have been telling me in recent weeks that the negativity has become almost overwhelming.
On Dec. 18, The Kansas City Stars front page was particularly grim. At the top was a good-news story about Garmins appointment of a new CEO. But the rest of the stories all concerned death.
Isnt it time for the editors to say enough and move on from some of this stuff? asked a caller that morning.
I know you have to report the news, and we have to hear about this postman who died in the heat, and the (Connecticut) funerals, and the policemen who got shot, he said. I just wish they would mix it up a little more and give us some good news out front. Its there, but you have to look for it.
Another example: An emailer Dec. 17 found fault with the tenor of a story the previous day about artist Geo Sipp and writer Conger Beasley Jr. and their work concerning torture in the French-Algerian War.
I was disturbed to open yesterdays paper and find a very dark story titled The Art of War on the cover of the A+E section, wrote the reader. This coming not just a week before Christmas, but also as the nation mourned another assault rifle attack. He suggested instead coverage of his own work, whose subject matter is a secular look at Christmas and peace.
Readers often compliment positivity, and suggest it as a model. For example, two readers complimented the Diversity Diva column in that Dec. 18 Star Business Weekly section. In it, Michelle T. Johnson referred to the noise of reaction to these distressing recent news events as they apply to the workplace.
If you make the mistake of looking at Facebook, Twitter and comments on the news stories online and on the air, its all made worse, Johnson wrote, but that sentence could have come from any one of the many readers who have expressed exactly those sentiments to me for quite some time.
In fact, the No. 1 criticism I hear about KansasCity.com has always been the behavior of people who post comments on stories. You might think now that the Internet has been so widespread for well over a decade, it might have grown out of its cranky, complaining adolescence.
To the contrary, I believe social media has amped up the bad vibes. Ive noticed that Twitter in particular has become a vastly more negative place than it used to be. It seems to have turned into the Internets collective complaint box.
And thats why I think journalists should listen when their readers point out that things have gotten too heavy. We all see the unending battles over fractious subjects such as gun control and the economy on our Facebook walls and on the cable news shoutfests.
The paper should of course always remain serious and address the issues of the day head on. But there should also be room for good news, which is also all around us.
Im not saying my callers demand a Pollyanna approach to the news. Im more likely to hear requests that The Star strive for balance, an occasional break even when it seems like theres little but chaos to report on.
Thats a challenge when times are tough. And in an era where print publications are dealing with tighter space, those happy features that make readers smile brites in newspaper jargon have to compete more every day with the hard news that must find its way into the paper.
The ancient Greeks called for moderation in all things nothing in excess. Thats a model for editors as well.
Derek Donovan will return Dec. 31.