Weekend Column – Let’s Play A Game
Let’s talk about Wednesday’s front page from earlier this week.
We had a photo of Father Henry Atem blessing animals. We had a story about a man beating and choking his daughter. Another one about an arrest involving a carjacker.
And then there was the arrest of a man who raped his fiancee’s 12-year-old daughter, complete with a mug shot.
Based on the emails and phone calls I received, this one really upset people. Not the story so much. After all, we have run similar stories in the past without this type of response.
No, people were outraged because we ran the photo of the suspect, Shalin Ren Payne, 29. And the reason they were outraged was because his face was covered in tattoos.
There is apparently a pretty heavy discrimination against facial tattoos here.
A sampling of comments: How dare we run that photo; we should only put positive stories on the front page; no one will ever want to move here to Newnan; you are a parent, aren’t you ashamed your kids see that?; what if it was your kid?; you should rot in (fill in the blank) and so forth.
I wish there was as much outrage over the crime itself as there was about us running a guy’s mug shot covered in facial tattoos. We always run mug shots when we can, and I don’t care if they are white, black, hispanic, tattooed or green.
Afterward, I was talking with our news editor, Winston Skinner, about all those aforementioned comments.
He said something that truly struck with me: “As I tell readers all the time, we are not the Chamber of Commerce.”
He’s absolutely right. We are not the cheerleader, yet neither are we the doomsayer. We report the news, and that includes the good, the bad, the ugly and the wacky.
People often seem to forget that a newspaper is also a business. And we are in the business of selling information. And we sell information through our website and through our newspaper.
So let’s play a game. You are now in charge of putting out Wednesday’s paper. You decide where each story goes.
Your job is simple: To get as many people as possible to want to read the paper you just designed.
Here’s your list (excluding sports):
News stories: Blessing of the animals (photo and cutline – paragraph explanation). Man charged with raping fiancee’s daughter (mug shot). Man beats, chokes daughter in front of another child (mug shot). Arrest made following recent carjackings (mugshot). Truck strikes bridge support beams (short story). Accident shuts down bypass (photo with cutlines only). GOP candidates take aim at Chicago gun laws. Friends, family, admirers remember Bond in DC memorial. Official: handcuffed man dies after jumping from building. Fall Peach Jam Poetry Workshop Saturday at Peachtree city library.
Healthy Living stories: Fundraiser being held for non-profit organization to help families in times of illness and loss (with photo). Hospital welcomes new board member. Veterans club to host annual golf tournament (brief story). Fundraiser for leukemia held at Chick-fil-A (brief). Nonprofit holding fundraiser for brain research (short story with photo). Local bar holding fundraiser for cancer patient (brief). Parkinson’s support group meeting (brief). Coweta Veterans Club to offer flu vaccine.
You have the front page and parts of pages 2, 3 and 5. On Wednesday, we run our Healthy Living section, which are pages 6 and 7, and stories should reflect that, but you’re the editor so wherever you want.
So how did you do?
For comparison, here were the most read stories between Wednesday and Thursday on our website: The tattooed rape story had 33,655 views; the grand jury indictment of a teen driver who killed another teen had 16,422 (Thursday’s paper); the arrest of a carjacker had 3,094; and the man who choked his daughter had 3,005.
In case you were wondering, not a single story listed above under Healthy Living, what many would call the “Chamber of Commerce” or “good news” type stories, made it in the top 20.
Number 20, by the way, was the photo of the blessing of the animals, and in case you are wondering, it had 353 views.
So, let us know how you would lay out Wednesday’s paper. We might run some to see what people think is news and most important.
Until next time.