When I finally sat down in the editor’s chair at the Trail Times a couple of months ago I definitely had a few ideas I wanted to try out in the pages of our local paper.
I didn’t know how they would be received and I’ll never know without trying.
First I wanted to add some fresh faces and new names to bylines. We recruited some new freelancers who have delivered interesting stories on community groups, efforts and people. They’ve added a new take on things locally and have inspired me to help them showcase many corners of our community.
And more of those stories are on the way.
Another goal was to make better use of our access to the Canadian Press photo service. I’ve learned it’s predominantly focused on eastern Canada, which makes for good photos of Stephen Harper’s cat but it also highlights the tragedy of flooding in Manitoba and Quebec better than any story could.
Those were changes that were easy and quick to make. However, another one might take more work but deliver even more satisfaction.
I consider myself a pretty average Trail citizen. I watch the news, I’m interested in community events, I have an appetite for sports, nationally and locally, I enjoy a good parade and fireworks and I think our young citizens have a lot to offer.
That’s what prompted me to tap into some new correspondents for our thin staff. We need to tell those stories. And that’s my guideline for what I, as editor, try to put in our paper.
A few months ago, we ran a Canadian Press story, which surveyed what readers were looking for in their local paper. The overwhelming response was, “more good news.”
That struck a chord with me. Everyone likes to read good news. We get desensitized to the barrage of bad news we see on TV. Bombings, wars, murders, corruption all make for vivid headlines, graphic TV and stir emotions but the reality is our world isn’t all negative.
People in Greater Trail know full well that without the army of volunteers – be it at the church, Salvation Army or baseball tournament – things wouldn’t get done.
Most people know the roles that community groups like Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus or the Lions Club play in our daily lives. We know the support of businesses from Teck and FortisBC all the way to the local restaurant and hardware store are the backbone of many community efforts.
Most love to complain about our politicians, it’s a national past time. But unlike our seldom seen national leaders, our local elected representatives are our neighbours, our friends, the people we see out shopping, shoveling snow or curling.
Because of the growing disdain for politics at the national and provincial level, that has spilled over on to the local scene.
Yet that brings up another goal of supplying a section of good news on a regular basis.
Many prefer to complain that the pothole on our street needs fixing rather than realizing the $100,000 improvement to drainage avoided a potential flooded basement during a downpour.
Many prefer to complain that taxes are too high rather than notice our drinking water is clean or our parks are well kept.
And no doubt a bit of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the local newspaper. If all you read is what’s wrong then you’ll never realize what’s right.
So with all that in mind, one new idea I want to bring to light is more good news.
Of course the purists will scoff. “A newspaper’s responsibility is to hold people, especially politicians and law enforcement, accountable.”
I agree we can’t overlook that role, it’s a vital duty of the newspaper. But who’s to say you can’t also highlight the good instead of constantly searching for the bad?
So that’s another goal I would like to reach for. It won’t be easy.
The best “good news,” is often the stuff people don’t want to brag about. They like to do their good deeds anonymously. After all that’s the point of being generous, it’s definitely not for the publicity.
So the challenge for us is digging up the “good news.” Like I said, “bad news,” is easy to find most of the time. Sirens wail, tragedy strikes and squeaky wheels whine.
But perhaps if you see a good deed, or notice a helping hand, or see something well done, why not share that with the rest of the community?
People fire off letters to the editor or comment online the minute they see something they don’t like. So how hard would it be to send a line or two or three about something you like?
It opens up a big door of possibilities. There could be section simply for good comments. Perhaps no names are needed, sort of a pay-it-forward mentality.
This will no doubt be a work in progress and it might take a few months to finally generate a steady stream of ideas and hammer out a consistent style.
Nothing good ever comes easy but I believe it’s well worth the effort.
Have a suggestion or a comment, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org