Jerre Redecker: Most stories in the paper aren’t sweet or sour

jredecker@theolympian.comMarch 2, 2014 

A couple of weeks ago, we opened our doors to the public, making the entire Olympian staff available for conversation, feedback, story ideas and a look into how we cover the community.

It was a full house, and we had many engaging discussions. One recurring request was for more “positive stories.” That sentiment is always interesting for a journalist, because our mission is to inform on many levels. What we think is a great story that people need to know about may not be heartwarming or sweet. But does that make it “negative”?

So, I looked through a week’s worth of papers to see what category I would put the stories into.

Most of what we write I can’t really put into a positive or negative column: a recall notice isn’t exactly good news, but it could be important. So is the reopening of the Hazo House. How about figuring out the rules for financing marijuana? Positive or negative?

We cover meetings of our various public officials to let the community know what their elected leaders are working on. You may or may not agree with those actions, but the stories fall into the neutral area of news of record.

Similarly, I didn’t count the many stories we do each day about the legislative session. It’s news of the day, and whether you consider it good or not depends a lot on your personal politics.

So, that left stories I could clearly label positive or negative.

In the positive column were 17 stories, including a look at the development plans for Lacey’s Woodland district, our weekly student spotlight, columns by John Dodge and Lisa Pemberton, a Silver Star ceremony, how some Olympia dads who take care of adult children with disabilities changed the IRS, and a look at our brief snow day.

There were 11 “negative” stories, mostly off the breaking news and crime beats. They’re not happy stories, but they’re necessary to keep the community informed. And we follow them as police investigations continue, arrests and charges are made, and suspects appear in court. Not reporting these stories would be a disservice to our readers, who want to know why police or fire units are in their neighborhood, whether there is drug activity next door, or if public safety is at risk.

To me, that seems like about the right balance. What do you think?

• • •

I’m sure I’m not alone in having a bit of cabin fever after our extra-wet February. While I’m grateful for the wall of windows in our newsroom, there hasn’t been much to see except gray on gray until this lovely sunny break into the weekend.

So, it would be great if I had an excuse to get out once in awhile. I’m always happy to meet with readers and community groups and exchange information on how to be the best news source we can be. If you are part of a group, club or service organization that includes speakers, let me know. I’ll talk a little and listen a lot.

Jerre Redecker is senior editor of The Olympian. Reach her at 360-754-5422 or jredecker@theolympian.com.

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