Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Argus Observes: Even in a weekly paper long thank you lists are not news

By Don Lynch
From the April 9, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Few newspaper readers can possibly know how much of the newsman’s time and effort goes into trying to keep the news uncluttered and interesting….

The stock in trade of a weekly newspaper is its names in the news. It is expected to carry the news about the everyday doings of the ordinary folk in its home town and region.

This is sound in principle because it is the basis of reader interest in the paper.

But pursued to extremes this philosophy would produce a sheet that was nothing but inconsequential clutter --- tripe that conceivably might hold the interest of a few avid gossips with a insatiable appetite for what their neighbors are doing but be dreadfully dull to large important groups of readers whose interest is needed if the newspaper is to be “everybodys” newspaper as we attempt to make this one.

Therefore we steadfastly refuse to run meaningless lists of names. We frequently cuts lists of names of people who attended parties or who attended meeting. If they won prizes, were elected to offices or made committee reports, they may get mentioned. But lists that run a half a dozen or more names in a lump are taboo in the news unless they are in the news of crime and violence which really has public interest.

One of the most frequent requests for dull treatment of the news comes from well-meaning sponsors of various worthwhile projects, who when the work is done, want to publicly thank the people who pushed the project….Readers just aren’t interested in all these gracious comments of thanks. So we try to avoid them unless they have some real news value.

The good people who want this sort of news printed seem to feel that if a helper is publicly thanked in print it somehow means more to him than if he just receives a personal thank you.

It is quite the other way with me.

I quite agree with “Rainwater” Jones who once gave me the idea in conversation that it is both good religion and good business to keep quiet about the various things you do in public service.
The broad general statement of ethics, the Sermon on the Mount, says something about, “When thy doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”

There is another quite practical reason why many people don’t want a fuss made over their public efforts. They don’t want to be “snowed” with further requests.

There is a premium these days on persons willing to help on public projects and the willing horse is apt to get worked to death. I’d rather not be known as such a horse, and I’m sure many other people feel the same way.

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