They say only bad news sells newspapers.
They joke that the files of bankruptcy courts are jammed with the obituaries of newspapers that died because they only printed what’s right with world.
Good news sells newspapers too. At least it does on the community journalism turf. Goodness sells more papers more often than badness.
Take this test. Pick up the community newspaper of your choice and see how much of it is composed of bad news. Define bad news as whatever went wrong that day -- deaths, crashes, robberies, disasters both large and small, the dog bite, the bee sting.
Then look at what’s left. It’s a lot.
Readers will get madder faster about good news being left out than bad news being omitted. A newspaper will get more calls for leaving out the school honor roll or a community correspondent’s column than for omitting a car crash or a mugging.
To prove how well good news sells, try ignoring it the next time you buy a newspaper. Scan the headlines and read only what’s wrong with the world. Don’t read everything else in the newspaper.
As you read, make sure you ignore the following areas:
– Honor rolls from local schools and colleges. No one wants to read about the best and the brightest.
– Extracurricular school activities such as band and sports. Anyone trying to better themselves, to do well for their school or earn a scholarship has no place in the newspaper. Kids like that probably say Grace before dinner and go to church Wednesday nights.
– Announcements of engagements, weddings and births. Who wants to read about people settling down and starting families?
– Notes from the armed services about who has been promoted or earned medals. Who cares about people serving their country?
– Church news. Who cares about do-gooders working to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here?
– Youth leadership articles. If kids aren’t in trouble, in jail or under it, nobody wants to read about them.
– Civic clubs, alumni associations, or volunteer groups. They’re just helping shut-ins or picking up trash to chum around together and get out of the house.
– Area business changes. If they want attention, let ‘em do something wrong like pollute the ecosphere.
– Advertisements. Who reads all that self-serving stuff anyway?
– County Fairs, Christmas parades, and all that other foolishness.
– Agriculture stories. Who cares what’s happening down on the farm?
– Hospital discharges. Those folks aren’t news unless they die.
– Family reunions, 50th wedding anniversaries and the like. What’s the big deal about being married to the same person for a half century?
– Special sections. Why recognize local industries and businesses, local people, churches, and agencies of government? They didn’t do anything wrong.
Now that you’ve ignored all those areas in the newspaper, get down and dirty. Get to the bad news. See who got arrested, indicted, convicted, injured or killed.
I bet you can’t do it.
I bet you can’t read a newspaper without peeking at some of the good news. You’d be too curious. And curiosity is why good news sells newspapers.
If someone printed an issue containing only bad news, you probably wouldn’t buy it. You’d be too curious about what you were missing.
If you did buy that newspaper, you’d have to hold it tightly.
Otherwise you might breathe on the single page and accidentally blow it out of your hands.