Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Time to Lighten Up

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Time to Lighten Up

Article excerpt

As usual, the Des Moines Register's Geneva Overholser gets it right: "We're so good at reporting all the negatives and all the infighting that we give people a sense it is all hopeless."

My wife, a faithful newspaper junkie if there ever was one, has taken a vacation from reading newspapers because their negativism depresses her.

The cynicism and contentiousness of news coverage no longer is a subject only for media conventions. It has become a topic of conversation everywhere, even abroad.

In cases like this, it's useful to identify the villains.

Top of list must be the radio talk shows and bogus news shows -- Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, Hard Copy & Co. Close behind is the chorus of the radical right. This fare for the nonreading public certainly is not enough to sustain the franchise of any democracy.

This gang of nasty zealots, plus the supermarket tabs and look-like, smell-like news shows, have seized the gatekeeper's role that newspapers once held. Too much of the legit press trundles behind, mindlessly picking up the beat.

This is painful. Herewith are some very basic, some very hoary specifics which news organizations might consider to regain more stature.

* Monitor the talk show hosts for truthfulness, balance and taste just as, in recent years, the media have monitored political advertising. This could be an important new assignment for the news ombudsman. Let us have an accounting on the reckless windbags who spread so much venom across the land.

* Pay serious attention to every single human being's lust for more "good news."

Yes, good-news, no-problem stories. Worry not whether these stories are labeled or are on page one. Look for good news, the success stories, and print them regularly, anywhere in the paper. The Wall Street Journal finds place for a nonserious yarn on its front page in every single issue of its rather sedate publication.

"Good News Isn't News" goes the old saw. Balderdash. As fellow curmudgeon Walter Cronkite moaned recently, "If we have to direct attention to finding good news, we've come to a perilous state."

* Go on the warpath against the overdose of sex and violence served up incessantly to the young and old on television, radio, MTV, etc. Make the program managers squirm.

* Be more useful and connected to your middle-class readers, i.e., run budget and shopping tips as often as reviews of pricey restaurants. …

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