By David Arkin
I’ve got a pretty unique story to share with you today about a 30-year newspaper veteran who has made good news an important part of what his new newsroom is focused on.
Patrick Ethridge became the Executive Editor/Vice President of The Albuquerque Journal earlier this summer. The Journal and David Arkin Consulting have been working together for almost a year now.
After just a few weeks into his new role, Patrick saw a need for more good news in the paper. He heard from readers and felt it himself.
The story on how he got there and the impact it had on the person who is writing this content, is pretty inspiring.
Why don’t we focus on good news?
Patrick said newspapers often talk about covering violent crime, corruption and court trials as part of their service to a community because it’s information readers need to know.
While true, Patrick believed there are still many good things happening in a community that also deserved attention.
“If a couple of these good news stories inspire others to do something good, and so on, then that’s the kind of impactful journalism many of us got into this business to do in the first place,” he told me.
‘There’s just not much good news in the paper anymore’
Since he was new to the market, Patrick was out and about this summer meeting community and business leaders. Over and over he heard that “there’s just not much good news in the paper anymore.”
Not the first he had heard that as an editor but as he looked a little closer he didn’t necessarily disagree.
“I started looking at our paper more closely, paying more attention in our daily news meetings and realized there really wasn’t much good news in the paper,” he said.
Luck would have it that he had just hired a night cops reporter fresh out of college and three weeks into the job that reporter was already burnt out on all of the negative coverage he was doing.
“He came into my office nearly in tears and told me he could no longer do the job. After reading all those reports and the gruesome details which rarely make it out of the newsroom, his heart was breaking and he was ready to quit,” Patrick shared.
Patrick realized the reporter’s potential and saw that he had a big heart. “Without giving it a second thought I asked him if he’d like to just report on good news instead. The rest is history,” Patrick said.
Readers flood the paper with ideas
The morning The Journal announced they would dedicate a full-time position to pursuing good news, they received 15 story tips by noon from readers.
“That tells me there’s lots of good news we weren’t covering, and lots of good news people want to share,” he said.
After the first week of announcing this initiative, the paper was able to establish 20 good news ideas and now has this page that is loaded with all of the good news.
But how can you do this?
It may be challenging for smaller publishers to have a resource dedicated solely to good news but there are ways to get there.
🔹 Create a Good News corner of the paper/site/broadcast to ensure you are calling out good news stories. Create a brand for this.
🔹 Develop a page dedicated to Good News where you could feature standing items weekly (a non profit feature, a community hero, etc.). In TV you could create a weekend segment or block dedicated to good news.
🔹 Always ask for good news. Use Facebook, newsletters and promotions in stories about good news to see even more of it.
🔹 Write a newsletter/column to your readers showcasing the good news and asking for even more.
Bonus idea: Here’s an idea a publisher suggested to me when I was serving as an editor of a group of newspapers in Western New York: Create a good news edition. We did this on Thanksgiving and the edition featured good news submissions from readers (basically sharing anything that was good in their life that year) along with lots of features that made people feel good. I explained what we were doing and why and readers absolutely loved it.
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