|By G. Michael Dobbs|
My e-mail is down and I'm up against deadline, so forgive me as my mind is wandering a bit. Here are some bits and pieces that are floating to the surface through the chaos:
One of the biggest variables in the news business is whether or not an event is a "story." Last week a reporter from CBS3 and I were the only media at a presentation of a $25,000 donation to the construction of a new playground at the Glickman School in Springfield.
Now the school has never had a playground and this generous donation when matched with city funds and those raised by parents and students will give literally thousands of students in the years to come a safe, modern place to play.
Now isn't that a story? So why did other media outlets skip it?
I was the only reporter that I could see at least at Craig Della Penna's presentation about river walks and greenways at Chicopee Comp last week. Chicopee has three river walk projects pending and Della Penna's presentation was certainly a strong argument for them.
Wasn't that a story, too?
For me, a story has to be something that will attract the attention of readers, give them some information they might not be able to ferret out on their own and allow them to react: celebrating, wanting to participate in or protesting an event or situation.
For me, seeing footage of a fire may not necessarily be news in the sense of how many people that story can affect. And the local TV folks love to show us overnight footage of fire and car wrecks.
Why? Well, it's relatively inexpensive to produce. It is potentially crime- and death-oriented, which is huge for television news.
Hey, everyone is strapped for cash in the news business these days. There are plenty of things my staff and I can't get to just because we've run out of time. The events we do cover we feel are important ones that reflect the life of the 13 communities where these newspapers are read.
I've heard television news directors here say that people don't want good news. What they want is crime, money and weather. Good news is just a sideline to the types of news consultants say people want to see.
Are these the same consultants who tell NBC we really want to see the national news time on the "Today" show wasted on Britney and Lindsay crap?
So is my approach to news wrong? Well, our papers are read, we're selling advertising and when people come to our Web site they go to an average of 12 pages.
So folks, if a member of our News Department is the only one who turns up at your event, please know that we and our readers and advertisers think your story is important, even if it doesn't involve a car crash.
The naysayers will be out in droves talking about downtown Springfield, wearing sackcloths, covering themselves in ashes and moaning now that two stores are leaving Tower Square and that that is an indication of how the downtown has slipped.
Let me ask you prophets of doom and gloom, vultures who enjoy the taste of carrion, how many times did you shop downtown? How often do you make the decision to patronize a locally owned business, instead of heading to a mall or big box store?
If we want local business to succeed then we actually have to patronize local businesses. That might take a bit of an effort, but isn't it worth it?
Instead of heading to that ber-mart to buy produce year-round, why don't you go to a farmers market, farm stand or a locally owned supermarket that features local goods? Why not go to a locally owned bookstore oops, too late for Springfield and buy there instead of going to a big box?
The retail environment can't be based solely on national chains. It's not good for us as consumers, as entrepreneurs or employees.
The closing of Edwards Books at Tower Square should be a wake-up call for all of us who actually want small local businesses to prosper.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to Reminderpublications.com or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.