Why does bad news sell?
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
It is said no news is good news. But what if it is bad news? We won’t talk about.
During my reporting career, it has been quite apparent that normally talkative people clam up when questioned by a reporter about a news item that could be considered bad news. I have also been at social gatherings where people have prefaced their remarks with “I don’t want this to be in the newspaper.” Nothing I was told at a social gathering ever found its way into print and the preface was not necessary. The request, although benign, did become aggravating after a while.
Why does nobody like to talk about “bad news” on the record, but want to read about it in the newspaper? And going a step further, these same people will talk about it to other people who do not buy their ink by the barrel.
Sadly, bad news sells papers but I know of no reporter who likes to report it. This summer, The News ran a story including reflections by Jackie Douthart’s mother and sister. Ironically, the story was published the same day Benjamin Biggs, the last person known to be with Douthart, was found dead after a shootout with police in Illinois. That issue of The News set a sales record for individual copies.
Another top seller this year was the fire at the Union Block building.
In fact, any front-page news regarding a drug bust, flaming vehicle accident or other bad news results in good newspaper sales. However, if The News ran a page-one story about someone receiving a prestigious award or winning the lottery, the sales would not come close to a bad news sheet.
Want to know the most-read part of the paper? Obituaries. Certainly not good news.
Back in another life while doing sports, the same thing happened. Coaches who were successful were cooperative. Those having long years you never heard from. The lesson I learned was that success and responsibility were related. Coaches who year in and year out had good teams were also the most responsible and cooperative.
Planes Trains and Automobiles was a popular movie starring the late John Candy some years ago. I think of that movie whenever I am waiting for a train to pass in Mt. Pleasant. I think about that movie a lot.
While I had to cross the railroad tracks daily to get to work, I never thought that I lived on the wrong side of the tracks.
I cross the tracks between four and six times daily. I think I am going to start keeping a logbook on how often I have to wait for trains to pass.
Yesterday noon was particularly frustrating. My road home was blocked by a coal train…a very slow moving coal train. So as I approached my spot in line, I put the car in park and sat, and sat some more. I turned off the ignition because I could see I was going to be there for a while.
The line behind me started growing and growing some more. Finally 10 minutes later, the last car passed.
I realize that rail presents a valuable opportunity to ship good across the country, but many times I fail to see the benefits in my frustration. I can easily understand road rage.
I don’t live far from the tracks and have been accustomed to the warning sound of train engines. However I wonder if I lived in one of the Iowa Wesleyan College dormitories if I could sleep through the night.
And yes, the slow moving trains only block your path when you are in a hurry.