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Column: It’s been a long, hard week

Posted: February 1, 2018 1:51 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.

This has been a tough week of hard news.

In Tuesday’s edition, four of our six top stories were crime related. Today, we have another three.

There are two long-held adages about our business. One says that photos of puppies and kids sell newspapers. The other is “If it bleeds, it leads.”

That phrase was, apparently, first coined by the communications theorist and educator Herbert Marshall McLuhan, the same man who came up with the notions of “global village” and “the medium is the message.”

The simple fact is, McLuhan was right. Crime stories are quite popular with our readers -- or at least with those who also care to share or comment on the Facebook posts we make linking to the website versions of those stories.

The “bleed” part isn’t even necessary. I’ll never forget how, back in September 2010, we ran a front page story about 11 people caught up in a drug sweep. We ran all 11 mugshots. That afternoon, I was at a convenience store across the street from our offices and saw a number of people buying copies of the paper who I had never noticed buying the paper before.

I can’t tell you yet how many copies of Tuesday’s paper we sold, nor can I predict how many of today’s edition we’ll sell. What I can tell you is that, as of Wednesday afternoon, our Facebook post on the “armed” convenience store robber being arrested reached more than 4,800 people with a dozen shares.

And another about a Camden man indicted in Conway on cocaine charges had reached more than 1,300 people after being shared a few times.

I have a feeling reactions to today’s news -- a teacher’s aide arrested on an assault charge, a felony DUI case, and a man’s body being found in the cab of his tractor-trailer -- will draw at least as much attention. We also have a story today that we hope will be educational regarding worries about musical instruments during this severe flu season.

These stories came at us fast and furiously this week, one atop the other. They weren’t exactly at “breaking news” level, but some came really close.

A couple of these stories required asking some very pointed questions of officials in order to get answers with information we believe you, the public, deserved to have about alleged crimes and other matters.

That’s the job, but I promise you, it’s not “fun” to have to report these things.

Thankfully, they get balanced with stories like the one on English Country Dancing, which reached more than 3,000 people on Facebook with a few shares, as well.

Stories like that are about the life of our community; the “good” for the “good, bad and ugly” of any community, really. I admit there is something in me that -- “enjoys” isn’t right; perhaps “is satisfied” -- by being able to put a spotlight on the dark side of society. Still, I yearn, as many of you likely do, for days of nothing but good news.

Yet, that is not to be. Whether it’s allegations of an educator striking a student; a man causing a horrible traffic collision that sent two people to the hospital; or any other undesirable or ugly situations, we can’t ignore the darker underbelly of Kershaw County.

If we do, we’re not telling the whole story of our communities. If we don’t tell those stories, we end up fooling ourselves into believing everything’s perfect when it’s not. Then, when something truly evil happens, we wonder from where it sprang.

So, we read through incident reports, attend government meetings, comb through financials and other data, cultivate relationships with various sources and ask the tough questions.

Do we do it to make money? Sure we do. As much as I love seeing my byline in this newspaper (and I readily admit that), I also earn my living this way. This company makes money by selling advertisements so clients can get their messages out to subscribers and readers who buy copies from a store.

But we also do it because we’re in the business of telling the stories of Kershaw County -- all of it, the “good, bad and ugly” I mentioned.

Citizen journalism exists, but I’m afraid the vast majority is unreliable. The C-I, on the other hand, under different names and different owners, has been around since 1889. We’ve been your trusted source for the news of Kershaw County all that time and we continue to work had to be that source.

Not a lot of this week’s news was happy news -- I’d say most of it was downright depressing -- but it is what we do: tell the true stories of our community and keep our government accountable.

“Good” stories are nice, and I want to tell them. “Hard” stories, though, tell it like it is and, sometimes, that’s what we really need.


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