Anyone who works for a newspaper learns quickly, you’re never going to make all the readers happy. Sometimes mistakes legitimately happen and you deserve the scorn; other times people are mad simply because something got reported – even if it was right, the critic will feel it shouldn’t have been made public.
Often readers will call on a complicated story, such as taxes or government spending and point out that we missed some angle or didn’t give enough space for both sides.
We are used to criticism and welcome the chance to discuss our work – and some times we have to make corrections because mistakes happen. It’s pointed out in journalism circles that newspapers are the only business that publicly acknowledge every mistake they make.
But last week, after much discussion here, we couldn’t budge an inch with critics who complained that our edition was too negative, filled with stress and sadness. One person suggested last week’s edition had been an attempt at “dark humor.”
We rarely respond to individual online comments, as we prefer to let readers discuss the news online, just like they would at a coffee shop or with neighbors.
But after our review of the issue in light of the “stress and sadness” comments, we responded to say this criticism was simply not valid. In our response we wrote, “the only negative story on the front page in our mind was the very sad news of the death in the city park restroom. Granted another story on the front was about the little-known Czechoslovakian founder of the Woodbridge Inn who passed away – but the article itself was upbeat and quirky and fun. It was a remembrance of a man with a big personality who lived a long and intriguing life, and it was also an interesting piece of local history. Other stories on our front page included one about Pickens growing by 13 percent, which is a straight up numbers story; one about yellow jackets and tips for how to manage them; and another about candidates who qualified in the municipal election. The front page also leads readers to inside stories about a pickleball tournament, JeepFest info, the school board cutting its tax rate, and football season opening.”
We continued on to the inside pages: “Then we revisited the entire edition – there are articles about a local couple who runs a pick-your-own farm, the library’s used book sale, Lion’s Club news, a Habitat for Humanity dedication, Jasper Farmer’s Market news, catfish tournament winners, elections office news, our weekly humor column, the long-running Happy Ramblers column, the coloring contest winner, sports news, and others. In fact, outside the tragic bathroom incident the only articles in the entire edition that had a negative undertone were two state news articles, one about fake solar panel ads and one about Plant Vogtle cost overruns. We can think of many previous weeks with significantly more “negative” articles, which made us wonder what led to those comments accusing us of putting out an “Armageddon” edition. As a media outlet we cover the events that happen in our community and they’re not always uplifting – but we do strive to balance our coverage and reflect positive happenings in our town.”
We then offered everyone a chance to read the entire issue for free for two days online to make a more balanced assessment of “dark” or “not dark.” In total, 65 different devices accessed our e-edition with the free offer and several new subscriptions came into the office, which we presume were related.
So, thank you to all those who took time to look over our complete offerings. Scanning the headlines of the front page is no way to judge a 20-page newspaper.
We also appreciate all the positive feedback our response generated. Readers encouraging us with comments like, “Pickens needs you and what you do.. and you do it well.” Or, “Don’t change a thing! I think y’all are doing a wonderful job. The news is the news, whether it’s good or bad. We need to know what’s going on.”
It’s nice to know our work is appreciated. We do our best to cover whatever the news is every week. And if you do feel we are missing something or not fully explaining a situation, then feel free to let us hear about it.
And thanks for reading your hometown paper.