Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Good News, Bad News

Our taxes are due.
We are up to our nostrils in the quicksand known as Iraq and nobody is throwing us a rope.
The debate over immigration reform is dividing our communities.
The President, faced with approval numbers that resemble winter temperatures in the Dakotas, is dumping staff members.
Then there is the weekly helping of grisly murders, political hanky panky and studies that assert we eat too much, sleep too little and are ill prepared for the bird flu.
Even our sports heroes are turning out to he chemically fueled automatons. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
Are you alone in wanting some relief from the run-for-your-life headlines that dominate today's news?
Apparently many people are. Check out these developments:
A newspaper called the Newark (N.J.) Weekly News has signed a $100,000 contract with the city council to publish "positive news" about the city.
"Do we have critical reporters on the staff? No. Do we have investigative reporters? No. Our niche is the good stuff. People have come to know it and they love it," explained Weekly News owner and editor Howard Scott.
Now, there's an idea. Just think of all the smiles that could have been generated right here in the the San Gabriel Valley under this arrangement. I can see the headlines now:

Council, Residents Join Hands to Welcome Wal-Mart
Red Cross Chapter Saluted for Hiring Practices
Homeowners Beg the NFL: Take the Rose Bowl, Please
Pasadena Schools Adopt a Sleeker Look by Closing Four Schools
Arcadia Needs Another Shopping Center

Of course, that isn't exactly the way these stories unfolded. But, hey, put on a happy face.
Not everyone is buying into the Newark Plan for Positive Journalism, however. Roy Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said, "If you are publishing government propaganda in the guise of neutral, detached reporting, that's about as unethical as you can get short of putting a hit out on somebody."
Perhaps a better alternative is a website called HappyNews.Com. These guys are right up front about it:
"Our basic belief is not that people should be insulated from bad news. Far from it. We encourage people to be fully engaged, fully informed citizens. That means we need to know the good and the bad. We just believe much of the traditional media has strayed from this course, and reports a disproportionate amount of negative news. We are trying to balance the scales back out..."
Almost all political stories are rejected. Coverage of the war in Iraq has been limited to things such as Marines celebrating Thanksgiving and volunteers sending teddy bears to Iraqi children.
The 30,000 job cuts announced by General Motors Corp.? You won't read it in HappyNews. Sports stories are mostly out "because one team wins and one team loses," the website's founder, Byron Reese explained.
So what do you get on HappyNews? Here's a sampling:

Girl Wins Spelling Bee After 41 Rounds.
Jill Carroll Visits Newsroom, Thanks Staff
California Wine Sales Hit Another High
Clinton Raises Billions for World's Needy
Alabama Votes to Pardon Parks, Others

Of course, you could pick some nits with these choices. The youngster who finished second in the spelling bee probably doesn't consider it happy news. Jill Carroll is the recently freed prisoner of Jihadists who threatened to behead her which, of course, is the basis for this story. It's great California is cranking out wine by the hundreds of millions of gallons but perhaps not such great news for those battling alcohol abuse. For all his good deeds, Bill Clinton still elicits a remarkably negative repsonse in some people. And while it commendable that Alabama has gotten around to forgiving Rosa Parks, one might ask why it took them 51 years to do so.
But you can't please everyone.
As for me, I'll take my news straight up, no chasers. If I want to add a silver lining, I'll paint it myself.

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