The sex/racism/murder/scandal column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Is the head dead yet? You know the boys in the newsroom got a running bet. Get the widow on the set, we need dirty laundry.

-- Don Henley

We'll get to that headline a little bit later.

Anyone who's ever worked at a newspaper before has heard this tired refrain: "Y'all never print anything but bad news in your paper. We'd like to read a little good news every now and then."


Every time I hear someone make that statement, I'm tempted to ask them how many times they've squawked (anonymously) that some commissioner or board member or columnist -- ahem -- is a moron or an idiot or some other unprintable epithet in vogue with those vulgarians whose vocabulary is severely limited.

Good news? Are you kidding me?

(True story: When I was working at another place before I came back for my third -- yes, third -- tour of duty at The Herald, the big cheese at this renowned locale ordered the entire staff in the department I was a part of to spend the better part of two days looking through back issues of The Herald for "things that are negative about (the place)." Even after I pointed out that, as News Editor of the newspaper during part of the time in question, I had a direct hand in what went into the paper and I knew for a fact negativity about (the place) was never even once discussed, around $200 or so an hour went into that important project ... which, by the way, was your tax dollars hard at work.)

Back to those patrons who say they are looking for good news in the paper. No you're not. You don't want good news. You want dirt, gossip, scandal, sleaze. Like Michael said, "It's human nature."

Not convinced? Take a cue from that peerless leader from days gone by who decided that spending a few thousand tax dollars to research phantom negative comments aimed at (the place) was a wise use of your money. Go back and look over the stories that you've read in this or any other publication lately. Discount the ones that include members of your or your friends' immediate families.

I'd be willing to bet that most of them fall under one of the "sex/racism/murder/scandal" categories. Who wants to read about some doctor coming up with a new way to treat a dangerous illness when you can follow the latest misadventures of your least-favorite government agency or the juicy details of some ditzy TV personality's sex life?

Save those boring stories about some cop reaching out to at-risk kids; we need to know about -- and comment on -- the latest high-profile murder case or the inevitable cries of "racism" that follow any arrest or conviction.

That other stuff? You can put that on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon .... Oh, and speaking of which, did you hear the latest about Selena Gomez?

Now, to the headline: It's a fact that people are more likely to read a story that does not involve them personally if one of those words -- or others of a similar nature -- are present. That's why people who don't know a millage rate from a SPLOST can tell you about the latest armed robbery count in the city or which commissioners voted for an ordinance that their group leader said they should be opposed to ... you know, the one about putting garbage in taxis or something like that.

Think I'm wrong? Go to this paper's website and check out which stories get the most comments, the most hits, the most attention. Or look on Page 2A and see what everyone's squawking about.

It ain't the turnip root shaped like British Honduras or the good-deed award won by some kindergartner. Yep, ole Don knew what he was talking about when he demanded, on behalf of the good ole U.S. of A.: "Give us dirty laundry."

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.