Thursday, September 17, 2009

If mom doesn't like it, watch out

Tales of tragedy "drive people away" from news and picture stories, says Mindy McAdams of the University of Florida. She writes:
Sometimes the news has got to be a downer. But not every downer story is a story the public needs to hear.
It's true that a lot of people don’t want to read about death and tragedy. Just ask my mom.
Nearly a decade ago, I proudly showed her a special section I helped produce for the Dallas Morning News. "Hidden Wars" was about terrible conflicts and massacres that haven’t gotten a lot of attention. It followed up on a similar effort that earned a Pulitzer Prize for the Morning News staff in 1990.
The version the paper produced 10 years later included graphic photos of amputees and victims of war in Africa. My contribution was closer to home - a piece on the aftermath of civil war in Guatemala.
After Hidden Wars was published, I gave a copy to my mom. But she told me she couldn't get through it. It was too grim, too depressing.
I'm not any less proud of Hidden Wars and I'm glad we did it. But it's true - people don’t like downers. So journalists ought to pick and choose how and when to write those tearjerkers.

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