Tough times make for tough reporting in Grand County
November 25, 2008
A reporter came into my office late last week and said, “I need to write some positive stories. I’m starting to get depressed.”
She had just completed a lengthy piece on the ’80s recession and on the Grand County job market.
We’d hoped that interviewing people who were here during the ’80s could offer some advice to those struggling in the current economy.
Instead, we heard a lot of stories about people who just couldn’t make it ” so they left until the hardest times were over and came back when the economy returned to normal.
We tried our best to give the story a positive spin ” “Grand County has made it through harder times,” we wrote.
Our job market story one page over reported that some people had been out of work for two months and that lines were long at the local job fair. We tried to give it a positive spin by adding a sidebar listing the places where people are hiring.
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But, in the end, newspaper readers aren’t idiots. They see through “spin.”
On Monday, we ran a great feature about a woman who is getting her GED at 63. Her smiling face on the front page made me feel so good after a week of reporting layoffs and bankruptcy filings.
In our newsroom, we’ve been doing a lot of talking about what role we should play in this economic crisis.
As the paper of record, we need to report the downturn. But we also hope to report it in such a way that we aren’t adding to the panic and anxiety of our readers.
“How are you being a leader in your communities during this difficult time?”
I threw the question out by e-mail to a group of mountain town editors in our company.
One editor wrote back ” “I’m in the ‘tell the truth’ camp, which includes the genuine news of successes. Business down 5, 10, 15 and even 20 percent means by definition that 80-95 percent of life continues. Try to look at the whole and keep your perspective.”
Another editor wrote ” “I think anxiety, uncertainty and fear within our own staffs can carry over into the tone of our newspapers and coverage of our communities in recent weeks.”
Both comments are true. As a newspaper staff, we’re trying to write about the crisis objectively while being afraid ourselves.
My goal is that we don’t let our own fear keep us from seeing the success stories or from offering hope to our readers.
If you have any insight about the role of this newspaper during these difficult times or if you have a success story you’d like to pass on, please share. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Call me at (970) 887-3334 ext. 19600, comment on my From the Editor blog, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the office at 424 E. Agate Avenue in Granby.
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