published Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Gerber: Good news, bad news, newspaper reflects our city

A 16-year-old killed on the street.

An inmate brawl at a North Georgia prison, caught on a phone video, after guards confiscated nearly 140 cellphones.

Two police officers beating a federal inmate so hard and for so long that his legs broke.

The FBI investigates an agent who has received special treatment from local law enforcement officers and put the FBI's sex crime task force at risk.

Two members of the Bloods gang walk away from first-degree murder charges after a witness to a homicide refuses to testify against them. A judge admonishes witnesses and those celebrating the dropped charges. "Wild hyena craziness," she said. "What is our society coming to?" she asked.

That's some of the news the paper covered in recent weeks.

In the newsroom, people have commented that a lot of "hard news" has broken lately. But it all depends on your perspective. A reader asked me why we were putting so much "bad news" on the front page. "So much doom and gloom," she said.

The front page this week also included stories about Chattanoogans electing a new mayor, the ever-popular Ringgold Wedding Chapel, technology plans in local schools, the pollen count diminishing last month and a new traffic signal aimed at reducing accidents on Highway 153.

The reader agreed that she'd consider those stories "good news," but said they get overshadowed by the bad.

It seems the "bad news" sometimes sticks with people longer.

Certainly, on the newspaper's website, readers gravitate to stories of death, conflict and corruption first. Those stories gets lots of page views. I suspect that, in print, those stories are well read, too, but there's no way to know exactly how many people read them.

The newspaper tries to be an accurate reflection of this community. Good things happen here. Elections take place. Local teams win important games. New leaders are chosen for a hospital and a university. Old-time fiddlers gather. Local soldiers return from a year-long tour in the Middle East. Those are all stories we also covered in recent days.

But we cannot ignore the life-and-death events -- like when a teenager is gunned down in public -- because those are the issues we struggle with as a society. These are the things that shouldn't happen and they must be noted when they do.

So we write about violence along with efforts to reduce crime, and we find a way to put a human face on the crushing issue of mental illness, and we document job losses and what's being done to create new jobs here.

When former Chattanooga city official Kernardo Curry was accused of stealing from the city seven years ago, the story ran on the front page. When he was found not guilty last week on charges of official misconduct and theft, we put the story on page one, above the fold.

Was the latest story good news or bad news? Like so many of our stories, it depends on the reader's personal point of view.

But to us, it's just news.

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nucanuck said...

Anyone who depends on the CTFP as their primary news source would have a limited view of national and world issues. CTFP news and opinion coverage is heavily local which could help accout for the prevalent provincial attitudes within the region. Just saying.

March 9, 2013 at 2:16 a.m.
Lr103 said...

I normally agree with you nucanuck on most every perspective you post here. This one I tend to disagree. If not for national news coming on right after local tv news, Chattanoogans would know very little of what's taking place in the world around them. At least CTFP gives a better world view. Just look to the left column of their front page when visiting their online site. There's a wealth of national/international news printed there. CTFP even digs deeper and now do more investigative reporting, digging into perhaps the many causes of why certain bad things are happening locally. Look hour quickly all the other tv and online news became silent on the Tatum beatting. This has always been typical of the local media, even the old CTFP. The other tv news stationed caved in to threats. It's refresshing to see local news finally holding up to their motto of reporting the news without fear or favor.

March 9, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.
jjmez said...

A judge admonishes witnesses and those celebrating the dropped charges. "Wild hyena craziness," she said. "What is our society coming to?" she asked.

At least they didn't do some high-fiving and went out for drinks later to celebrate a good kill.

Indeed! What in the world has society come to? When those who are suppose set examples, respect and uphold the sanctity of life, and keep the rest of society in check, instead think so little of life, humanity and human existence that they refer to themselves as the hunters and the rest of us as their prey? indeed! indeed!!!

March 9, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Lr103, maybe I was being a little unfair. Because I search far and wide for good quality hard news and find relatively little in the CTFP, I may be trying to hold them to higher standard than is reasonable.

March 9, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
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