EDITORIAL: What is good is bad news?
By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Many things look bad. Whether you look at tribal or national politics, you can find things that will make you fearful, mad, and even disgusted.
We recently asked you if you wanted us to continue publishing the arrest reports in the One Feather. The vast majority of you said you wanted to see them. Some of you said that that it was depressing and some said it made the Tribe look bad.
We have had this discussion before in the paper. The One Feather asked for an assessment to determine what we could do to improve readership and our service to the tribal community. Some of the responses received were that they would prefer only seeing positive, uplifting stories in the paper.
Sometimes, it feels like there isn’t any good news. Flip on the television, listen to the radio, or pull up a newsfeed on your laptop, and you will see and hear stories about corruption in government, rioting in the streets, injustice and abuse of the young and the old. Switch channels and check out the weather. There you find drought, flooding, tornado damage. Maybe you will find relief on the sports channels. Nada. Doping, bribery and politics abound in local, regional, and national sports organizations.
What good…what benefit is there to publishing “bad” news? After all, isn’t there an old saying that says ignorance is bliss? Why depress everyone with negative news, even if it is the truth?
The traditional role of the media has been to be the herald of history in the making. Back in the day, newspapers would pay young people to take their product into the streets and become “town criers”, yelling the day’s headline so that the community would come and get a copy of the day’s happenings. Most of the time, those town criers weren’t shouting happy news. If fact, fewer papers were sold on the days that “happy” news was the headline. Media owners and managers have known for a very long time that the public, by and large, prefers the “bad” news to the “good”. If happy or good news would sell, every media outlet in the world would be writing, printing, and leading with happy news.
Another traditional role of media is to be a watchdog of the people. The average citizen doesn’t have the time or inclination to constantly monitor the actions of the government and community that might impact his or her quality of life. It is a function of the media, to report, good and bad, the activities of the government and community. Outside of Native American communities, independent news organizations hold government accountable to the constituency it is supposed to be serving. Inside the Native community, it is up to tribal media organizations to fight for the liberty to inform the public.
Democracies have fallen because of the lack of an unfettered press. Government corruption may remain hidden without the voice and distribution capability of a free press. Little activist groups with big voices may control a community without a community news outlet that will research and verify the causes that are presented to the public.
In reality, the only truly bad news is the news that does not get reported. The more uninformed a constituency is, the more easily and likely they are to be manipulated. In order for things to get better and to have more “good” news”, it is necessary to expose the bad. If we only report the happy news, we are contributing to a problem, not rectifying it.
So, as we publish the arrest report, we hope that it will alert the public of a need to address those in the community who violate law and endanger others. We believe that publishing the report provides a little bit of a deterrent effect in that people don’t like to see their names and faces publicized in relationship to alleged wrongdoing. Maybe someone seeing themselves in the pages of the One Feather in the arrest report will spark him to take a look at himself and turn his life around. Maybe it will cause an abuser to seek help and stop just one person from being an addict or stop domestic violence and abuse.
And, if we can manage to do that just once, then, folks, that is good news.