Debunking the negative news myth

September 24, 2013

Bob Strickley

PDT Content Manager

Every once and a while our newsroom will get a deluge of calls claiming that all we ever write about is negative news. “If it bleeds it leads” is the old newspaper saying that gets tossed around whenever we have a particularly negative news day.

Often we are left to explain that we can’t control things that happen in our coverage area that constitute coverage. We also can’t ignore the bad things that happen for the sake of making everyone feel better because we then get the tired claim of us being biased or covering up for someone.

We don’t let those responses stand in the way of hearing and considering the feedback. Indeed, a lot of what we do in the community is dictated by requests from our readers. However, the frequent claim of the Daily Times giving more focus to the negative stories is simply not true.

Even in this edition the top story is about a man who helped scared children from a crashed school bus…and I promise that was going to be the top story before deciding to write this editorial.

If you don’t buy that, I decided to check a previous week’s list of bylined stories to get a breakdown of how our work would qualify: negative, neutral and positive.

I consider negative stories to be about crime, corruption, nonprofits closing, budget shortfalls, etc. Neutral stories are the informative types, upcoming events, results from a council, trustees or school board meeting, previews of events. Positive would be charity events, donations, food drives, festivals, memorial events, etc.

Looking through each of the stories, I found we had six negative stories, 17 neutral and 28 positive. The week of Sept. 9 through Sept. 16 was probably a little more positive than most, but not such an outlier as to be disregarded.

There is little doubt of the abundance of negative stories to report on in the area. A former newsroom staffer, who was a veteran of several papers across the country, said Portsmouth can be like covering the Wild West at times. That said, as the numbers would indicate, there is no shortage of good being done around us and we do not ignore it.

Good or bad, we strive to cover the news as it unfolds around us. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we try to be as accessible to the community as possible and receptive to their story ideas, negative, neutral or positive as the hours in our workday allow. So keep the feedback and story ideas coming. We aren’t hard to reach. E-mail us at PDTnews@civitasmedia.com or call the newsroom at 353-3101.

Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or bstrickley@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Bob on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr.