Saturday, August 18, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 24

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on October 4th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 31 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 31

Bad news blues

It’s a complaint we hear all the time as journalists: Why do you always focus on the bad news? Well, that’s a complicated question to answer.

First of all, we don’t do just that, but instead we cover a wide range of the goings on in our communities and the world, positive and negative. It’s in moments when the status quo is disrupted, when lives are harmed or destroyed, or when corruption or incompetency comes to light, that we have a duty to share that information.

The old newshound’s adage, “If it bleeds, it leads,” has been harped on for generations now. Some argue that news media revels in the chaos of violence, that it sells papers, to the point now that there’s a committed faction of conspiracy theorists in the U.S. who immediately assume that mass killings are elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by the media to make money.

This truly misses the point. Not a single journalist was happy to cover the attack in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, the most brutal mass shooting in modern American history, but I’m sure they felt a sense of duty to contribute accurately to the historical record on such an unprecedented moment albeit a bloody one.

Reporters for the Los Angeles Times reached out to individuals lying in hospital beds, and while some may find that a breach of privacy and good taste, many chose to share their stories. People whose friends or family died in their arms, who ran from the gunfire on broken bones, or who were rescued by incredible acts of bravery—they were willing and able to share their stories. Privacy should always be respected, but those brave enough to speak up need to be heard.

Take the two domestic violence survivors who spoke with the Sun for the cover story this week (page 10). They were brave enough to tell of the years of abuse they’d endured, and the times they feared for their lives. Both Maria and Denise were compelled by a sense of duty as well, aware that anyone suffering in a violent relationship could learn from their story, look at their situation differently, and make a better choice for themselves and their families.

We don’t choose these stories because they’re easy. They’re not. You hear a lot of deep sighs in a newsroom when mass killings, homicide, mental health crises, homelessness, addiction, or natural disasters are the assignments. We listen to sources cry, tell them it’s OK when it’s hard to get the words out, and even tear up with them.

The only way our society and culture can course-correct when difficult issues spin out of control is by first understanding them. That’s why we also take seriously the task of contacting experts and researchers, people on the front lines of exploring the problems plaguing our world. We also need to remember to ask anyone with insight: “What can be done to address this? What can the average person do to help?”

The most common advice offered by sources from this week’s cover, regarding how to address domestic violence in our communities, was simple: Speak up.

From Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley to counselors to survivors, the need to wipe away the shame and fear of domestic violence is with words. Start by acknowledging it, whether in your own relationship or a family member’s or neighbor’s, and then get those people help. Call a crisis hotline, or local law enforcement.

Even if it’s bad news you’d rather not share, you shouldn’t be silent.

The Canary needs a shoulder to cry on after the Las Vegas shooting. Send your thoughts to

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