The bad news about good news

The launch of another ‘good news’ local newspaper has brought snorts of derision from professional journalists.

“I wish them well – but fear the worst for this venture,” wrote one on hearing of the birth of the monthly Mansfield, Ashfield and Warsop News Journal. “The nation is already littered with numerous corpses of papers which only printed good news.”

The cover of issue number one is festooned with happy headlines such as ‘Beautiful day for shop’ and ‘Healthy food in classroom’.

For any self-respecting hard-news hack this looks like a business disaster in the making, but in fact there are dozens if not scores of low-cost publications making a modest living for their owners.

The appetite for happy, anodyne ultra-local news and cheap advertising is strong. Editors are often criticised for trumpeting the worst aspects of local life on the front page.

‘Good news’ papers are easy to produce and require little journalistic skill, so you don’t need many or even any pesky journalists to put them together. News from La La Land is cheap.

News from the real world is not always happy. Much of it is sad and bad. It can be time consuming and expensive to produce and often involves risk for journalists and media owners.

I hate to see it, but more and more of our local newspapers are going this way as costs are cut and editorial teams are thinned.

Not having enough reporters to sit in magistrates courts and council meetings means that many important local news stories are no longer being covered.  We are being lulled into a false belief that all’s well in the area while criminals go unreported and in many places the public are ignorant of what councils are doing in their name.

The industry has done a poor job of explaining to its readers why they need a vibrant local press and why they should keep on buying newspapers.  Towns all over the country are sleep-walking to a future where only good news is reported. One day, perhaps, we will all live in La La Land.

And that would be seriously bad news.

– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.