What better way to start off the New Year than with an old column? Please enjoy this slightly edited, warmed over repeat that is just as pointless and meandering today as when it originally appeared years ago. I will be back with brand new pointless meanderings next week.
Many people come up to me and say, "Steve, there is just too much bad news in the newspaper these days. Why can't you folks in the media emphasize the positive instead of the negative?"
First, I explain to these people that I am not Steve, but I can understand the confusion since I am just another in the long line of nondescript, interchangeable white males that fill a majority of newsroom positions.
Then I narrow my eyes, furrow my brow and give these people my serious journalism look, much like the one TV news anchors use when they talk about a bus load of tourists plunging over a cliff in Guatemala. (Those stern expressions could also be the result of a lack of fiber in their diets. I don’t really know much about the TV side of things.)
I tell these concerned citizens, "I know what you are saying and I can even pretend to care, but you have to understand that a newspaper has certain responsibilities to its readers and the community as a whole. It must tell the story truthfully and without bias, good or bad. It must provide pizza coupons that can be stuck to refrigerators with little magnets until they expire and are replaced by other coupons. And in smaller communities, a newspaper must document every traffic accident involving a cow."
The concerned citizens usually walk away at that point, wondering how I can hold down a full-time job.
But these people may have a point about the overabundance of negativity. If I was a newspaper czar – a media kingpin, if you will -- instead of a lowly and powerless humor columnist/small-town editor, I might mandate that stories downplay the negative and put a sunnier spin on the news that would surely satisfy the most community-minded concerned citizens among us. (I would also make sure fresh pastries were available in the break room every day.)
Here’s an example of a story that emphasizes the positive, rather than the negative:
PALOOKAVILLE -- Gertie Porkmore has what may be the prettiest flower garden in the entire county.
"Oh, I've loved flowers all my life," said Gertie, who at 84 years of age has lost none of her get-up-and-go. "When I was a little girl growing up on the farm, we didn't have much money. I couldn't afford to have the nice fancy toys like the young 'uns in town, so I devoted my time to growing flowers."
The beautiful red roses brighten Gertie's well-manicured lawn. The fragrance is enchanting.
Authorities were surprised to learn Saturday that Gertie had smashed her husband Fred in the head with a fire poker and buried him in that very same flower garden. She is being held without bond.
And those traffic accident stories? Let’s give them a positive spin as well.
EAST PALOOKAVILLE – Philo Simmons and his family aren’t having the traditional New Year’s meal on Monday. They’re having fresh-cut steaks.
“It’s like I always say,” Simmons told the newspaper. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Simmons, 46, was charged with failure to reduce speed and improper equipment after colliding with a cow on Route 9 Saturday night.
Those concerned citizens may be right after all. A positive spin and fresh pastries could be just what this industry needs.
Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.