2007-01-18 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

The Whole Community Is In The Newspaper Business
By Charles Rogers


There was a promotion item in last week's issue that read, "Some of the best story ideas come from readers just like yourself!" It goes on to ask the reader, for input - personal stuff, if you will - so that you might let us know what's happening in your particular neighborhood…or even in your house. It doesn't have to be about negatives, like the Sanitation Department missed your block during pickups that day, or the police ticketed every other double-parked car ("How come I got a ticket and the guy next door didn't?"). Nor does it always have to be how your son or daughter received accolades for getting a mark above an F in school.

What we are, is interested. The old journalistic expression goes, "What interests you, interests us" and it's a fact.

There are good and bad things happening in our little corner of New York. Yes, unfortunately, crime is one of the big topics we should know about. Sorry, but it's something you must be aware of, especially now. At the same time, education is high on the list, as are subjects having to do with government and its involvement in our lives. There are international and national implications involved in everything we do, of course, and you can be sure that, in the long run, whatever happens "up there" trickles to "down here," and it is our duty to let you know about it. It may seem trivial at the time, but making the decision whether to put it in the paper or not is up to us.

This is what we do: Decide.

When we print what we print, it doesn't come from overactive imaginations. Even international news organizations, including those that are comprehensive, depend on sources . Those sources include its own reporters, hired to go out, investigate and/or cover a story and then report it. The sources also include information received from witnesses - people just like you - who give them information. They then check it out and report it. Besides the info we receive from police, fire, school, medical, religious, social service, civic, public relations (promotions) and commercial agencies, we rely on our own staffers to give us information that we feel would be of interest to you.

Time and again, a spark of a story is begun when someone calls or faxes our office to tell us of a rally or meeting on a particular topic on a certain date. Without that call, we wouldn't know. A member of the very active United Canarsie South Civic Association tells us there are too many abandoned cars in their neighborhoods. Without their mentioning it at their meeting, we might not have known; the Friends United Block Association complains of the lack of a traffic light at a certain intersection in the Redwood section. Thanks to them, we take a picture of it, a little pressure is put on the city's Transportation Dept. and they put the corner under observation. If the civic group didn't hold the meeting, and if we didn't report it, they might not get that light.

We did a Thanksgiving story about a Canarsie senior citizen who would be spending his holiday with a special 13-year-old from Westchester who had become his friend because she enclosed a message in a Meals on Wheels package she had packed. It was a great human interest story - just right for our newspaper and our community - and just in time for Thanksgiving! If the senior citizen hadn't told us his story, neither you nor we would have gotten that extra chuckle on that holiday weekend.

The point is, the person involved took it upon himself to let us know about it. He trusted us to run with it and we did. Mind you, we're not going to do the same with every story, but we certainly will study them and weigh them and think about them and…yes… decide . By asking you to notify us of a story, a "happening," a big event (or small), we're asking you to join us in this journalism business of informing the public about….well…about your (our) community.

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