The more time I spend in the newsroom, the more I realize that the relationship between journalists and the communities and people that they cover is extremely complicated. The public has a wide range of expectations for journalists, making the needs of this rhetorical audience difficult to identify and please.
There are even discrepancies in what should and shouldn’t fall under the broad category of news, for instance. As a journalist, though, that’s something you have to decide on every day, since there’s only so much room in the paper; And in a diverse city like Lynn that has a lot of crime, that can be difficult. In effect, journalists end up taking a lot of blame and criticism from unsatisfied people who are unhappy with their city.
On New Year’s Day, for example, the front-page story, “Lynn starts off new year with mayhem; Shooting, stabbing mar holiday,” detailed how a woman was struck by a stray bullet on January 1st, and in an unrelated incidence the same day, an 18-year-old man was stabbed.
On the online version of the story, a reader commented, “Always good to have such positive front page coverage with this ‘news paper’”.
Situations like this leave us journalists with a difficult question to answer: Is it our job to offer up-beat stories that will made our audience feel good, or is it to give them what we consider to be the most important news? Of course it’s a shame when the first front-page story of the year has to be so pessimistic, but journalists just report the news, they don’t create it.
As a result, journalists need to be thick-skinned. I tend to take everything to heart, but in this industry you simply can’t allow that to happen. Yes, the opinions of readers definitely matter, but they don’t all matter. You may think a story is really great, or really important, or whatever, but there’s always going to be someone who isn’t happy with it.
Long story short: Do your best, make good judgment, and shrug off the haters.