Who says all news has to be bad news?
It is a question I have heard frequently during my years as a news editor: What kind of stories do you publish? What do you consider newsworthy?
There is something about identifying a good news story or human interest feature that seems elusive to many people and organizations.
I never fail to be surprised by how even media professionals, those responsible for writing and distributing press releases, struggle to identify a good story. All too often, it seems, there is a great news item buried somewhere deep within a dull, uninspiring release that has been sent out.
What is news? There are many different ways to answer the question that every student in Journalism 101 has encountered.
Here are some notable observations:
· According to journalist Charles Anderson Dana (1819-1897): “When a dog bites a man that is not news, but when a man bites a dog, that is news.”
· Mark Twain once wrote: "News is history in its first and best form, its vivid and fascinating form.”
· Publisher Lord Northcliffe (1865-1922) said: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”
· Author G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) said: “Journalism consists largely in saying Lord Jones died to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”
· Publisher Lewis Lapham summarized: “People may expect too much of journalism. Not only do they expect it to be entertaining, they expect it to be true.”
· One quote, attributed to various people over the years, proclaims: “A good newspaper comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
That last memorable but hard-to-attribute quote could pertain to the work of the church as much as a news organization. Isn’t that what Jesus often did, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?
Most general interest newspapers struggle mightily with stories involving the community of faith. The most exciting stories within the local church, involving stories of miracles, answered prayer, “divine appointments” and supernatural intervention, fall well outside the comfort level of normal media. As a result, the vast majority of news reports involving matters of faith are limited to controversial social issues, internal church squabbles, legal matters or financial irregularities.
That is not the type of news that gets people excited about waking up Sunday morning and heading off to church.
As for the editorial preferences of the North Georgia Advocate, we do not adhere to the philosophy of French author Luovic Halevy (1834-1908), who famously said, “No news is good news.” In truth, we know the best news is Good News.
Are you doing a good job of sharing your news? It is never too late to start. Don’t be dissuaded if you are part of a small local congregation. The North Georgia Advocate has no preconceived notions where good stories emanate; only a preference for good stories.
On the top of our list for compelling news items or stories: supernatural intervention and miracles, successful new approaches to ministry or missions, innovative outreach efforts, exceptional individual or group efforts and new ecumenical projects.
In short, the best news for the North Georgia Advocate is news that brings glory to God and provides inspiration and motivation for other local congregations to follow. So, in fact, a congregation with less than 20 members has the same opportunity to make news as a local church with 4,000 members.
Do you have good news to share? Let us know about it.
Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.