We’re never going to please everybody.
That’s the reality I came to close to 15 years ago, after my first four years in this business doing my darndest to make all readers happy.
Being a journalist requires a thick skin. Reporting in the town, most especially a small town, where you not only sleep at night but raise your family – add another layer of thickness.
Now granted, that also lends itself to a lot of positive praise, which I’m sincerely grateful for. But just like any other profession, there’s always someone who thinks we could do better or are missing the mark (in their opinion).
In truth, we do miss things. We are a much leaner staff than when I first stepped into this building in 2002. It’s a topic I’ve covered at length before. In short, we are an editorial staff of four covering three cities and a number of other publication products.
This piece, however, isn’t to offer excuses. We still have responsibilities to our readers and a work ethic to uphold as reporters. Last week however, I was struck a little funny as I learned a subscriber had just left after registering a complaint that we didn’t print enough “hard” news.
My thought, in particular, was that I happened to have just penned a story about a military widow, now raising a 4-year-old after losing her husband to cancer. I had also just spoken with a father whose 14-year-old son is battling cancer.
I’m not sure what world everyone else lives in, but in my world THAT is “hard” news.
Now granted, it’s not documenting city council members arguing with one another, alleged embezzlement or a he said/she said sensationalized story. But trust me, it’s “hard” to ask the questions and share the stories of community members during vulnerable times.
Oh sure, we don’t have to run those stories. We could very easily leave those families to their own devices to navigate the difficulty surrounded by friends and family. Often times we do. Again, on limited staff we don’t always get all the stories we might like.
This is where it gets tricky, as the community paper (and a community member), we feel a different sense of responsibility to bring those stories not just to our readers, but to our community.
The funny thing is, 15 years ago, I could easily find myself in a debate of but do the readers care? Fortunately we now have social media, so we can see what our readers are responding to via comments, likes and even shares.
The military widow story; over 65 shares. What this tells me, is our readers were moved by her “bad” news in such a way they felt inspired to share it.
Yes, it is still our responsibility to report on city government, education and other important forums. The key here being “report,” so while the word “hard” might be subjective, news reporting remains our objective.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.