Sometimes I have to shake my head. It’s quite confounding how different two or more perspectives can be.
On Tuesday, staff here posted a photo of a two-car collision that occurred the day before on The Daily Journal’s Facebook page. We hadn’t had room for it in that day’s newspaper, but we still wanted to (a) get the word out and (b) make use of staff time that had been used to go to the scene.
The conversation that ensued was interesting. At least I thought so. One person commented on another accident. Another person, Kimberly Stewart Seatt, mentioned how bad she felt the intersection of East Franklin and South Lawrence streets, where the collision took place, was. Another person, Darryl Jones, discarded the Journal’s coverage of any accident and opined that “if the wreck did not happen in Rockingham or Hamlet, the Daily Journal will know nothing about it.”
And then the discussion turned to how a newspaper gathers information. I chimed in, using the newspaper’s identity.
“Mr. Jones, that’s not a true statement,” I wrote. We can’t report anything, from any location, if we don’t know about it.”
I then addressed an apparent vehicle fire that had been seen in Ellerbe that we didn’t have a report on.
“The incident in Ellerbe was more than a week old before anyone informed us about it, and by then, it’s not news. We’ll do our best to cover all of Richmond County. now that we’re full staff on the news side, we’ll do that better than in recent months, I believe.”
That still will not allow us to be everywhere, all the time. It takes a community to make a community newspaper successful. It takes reader involvement, and sometimes that’s as simple as passing by an accident scene (or noticing another issue around town) and picking up the phone and letting me know. Or posting on The Journal’s Facebook page. We’re pretty accessible, Mr. Jones. Communication does go two ways.”
Mr. Jones, who works at a middle school in the Raleigh area, seemed to take offense at the idea of people contacting the newspaper for story ideas. He said it was our job to call the police stations. His response included this statement: “I cannot believe you said people need to call the Daily Journal so you all can cover the story.”
The entire conversation’s still available online; go ahead and read the whole thing for yourself. However, I want to take a minute to emphasize that it does, indeed, take an entire community to ensure a vital, viable community newspaper. There are dozens of examples of story ideas we get from people just like Mr. Jones.
One of them is the property tax story that ran Friday, which alerted Richmond County taxpayers to pay attention to property tax bills; that there could be a chance their bills were higher than usual because of something generally referred to as a computer glitch. Thanks to Kermit Duvall Perkins Jr., who visited our office, reporter Amanda Moss was able to follow up on the issue and alert taxpayers countywide.
The fact is, people contact us every day with story ideas. Admittedly, the ideas are usually the softer, feature-type stories. And we’re happy to get those, pending staff availability. Either way, communication is a two-way street.
Here’s what we miss when people don’t contact us: a horrific crash involving a woman in a vehicle vs. a train in Hamlet; and Richmond County educator, Wendy Jordan, principal at Mineral Springs Elementary School in Ellerbe, being named North Carolina Public Schools Sandhills/South Central Region Principal of the Year.
There are, unfortunately, dozens of other examples. But with your help, we can cover far more than we miss.