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Yin and yang: Defending 'good' and 'bad' news
Life on the Ark.jpg

Sometimes when someone suggests we publish a story about young people doing something worthwhile, that person will try to ‘sell’ the story by saying, “We need to see some positive stories about our youth in the Great Bend Tribune. All we see is the negative.”

This statement may be well-intended but it does a disservice to the Tribune reporter and to the person who says it. The fact is, if you only see negative news in the paper, it’s because that’s all you are looking at.

In other words, we can write the news, but we can’t make you read it.

This week, we posted two stories on social media within a few seconds of each other.

Readers saw the post: “Students wear hats to help others.” This story was about Great Bend High School students in the Kansas Association for Youth conducting a fundraiser for charity. The story ended with a partial list of other civic-minded deeds these students do.

Below that, the next post was: “Juveniles caused property damage.” This story was about police solving a recent vandalism spree. More than $3,000 in damage was caused by juveniles driving around with BB guns and shooting the windows on homes and vehicles. They got caught.

Within 30 minutes, the “positive youth story” had reached 378 people and there were eight engagements. The “negative youth story” had reached 654 people and there were 129 engagements. Facebook Insights defines engagement as post clicks, likes, shares and comments.

There may be several reasons for this. Perhaps people were concerned last week when they read about multiple cases of property damage and they wanted to see how the case had been solved. They may have suffered some of the loss or knew someone who did. They may have wondered who the juveniles were (but since they were youths the police did not release their names) and what will happen to them (the case has been turned over to the Barton County Attorney’s Office). As for the “positive” story, which included a photo, maybe the readers know someone in the KAY organization or have a student in high school. Some people were interested in reading the “positive” post more but MORE people were interested in the other story.

Sometimes readers will skip a story about youth doing community service and then say there was “nothing to read” in their newspaper (or on the website). Some only want to read the sports, or the obituaries, or the comics, or the headlines.

Sometimes a story doesn’t catch readers’ attention until they become interested in a topic they have ignored for years. 

The decision of what to read is always left to the reader and readers aren’t all interested in the same things. The value of a story isn’t always whether its “good” or “bad” news, but that it makes us aware of what’s happening in our community.