Tell us a story

Mass murder, fiscal cliff, civil war in Syria. Hey, newspeople get tired of it, too. It just doesn’t seem that way.

While raiding the holiday snacks in the All Things Considered offices not long ago, producer Jayne Solinger, who’s the person who takes a blank slate and turns it into an award-winning production every afternoon, said, “tell us an uplifting story.”

“From Minnesota?” the embodiment of walking sunshine at MPR asked.

“Of course,” she said. They’d like to do a segment on this afternoon’s program.

The embodiment of walking sunshine at MPR had nothing, but he’s got a blog and a point to make.

The worst thing a news organization can do, is leave an audience with a sense of despair. Despair does nobody any good because it comes at the cost of hope. It’s also not a fair portrayal of the human condition on a daily basis.

Some serious journalists scoff at this notion, referring to stories as “feel good” or “light” or “human interest” stories. And yet, some of the most memorable journalists — Charles Kuralt and Boyd Huppert come to mind — specialize in telling stories of this vintage, a vintage which leaves other journalists wondering, “how’d they get that story?”

It’s simple, really. Someone in the audience told them about it.

There’s no shortage of stories to create despair. They’re easy to find and fairly easy to tell.

But for some reason, these other tales are terribly difficult to uncover because we have conditioned the audience to believe that news is defined solely by those more abundant stories. So when neighbors bring in the harvest for an ill farmer, a young man pays for the groceries of someone without money, or a cop tucks $100 into the citation he just gave to the driver he pulled over who was too poor to renew his license tabs, we don’t instinctively think that’s something “newsworthy.” And so we don’t tell the people who could tell people.

Which brings us back to the original request, “tell us an uplifting story.”

Tell us one.

If you don’t want to post it below, email me at bcollins@mpr.org, and I’ll turn them over to my colleagues in exchange for treats.

  • vjacobsen

    So, I’m really proud of it, but I’m spending my day driving all over tarnation picking up donations and will spend my night sorting the donations to the Maternity and Cloth Diaper drive that my business partner and I are holding for a second year. We had enough donations that we get to add more nonprofits to our list of recipients, which is pretty awesome. I’ve hauled 2 full van loads of donations, and I’ll probably have another van full in two hours. It’s not toys, but it’s an unmet need and we’ve loved doing it.

  • Tyler

    The worst thing a news organization can do, is leave an audience with a sense of despair. Despair does nobody any good because it comes at the cost of hope. It’s also not a fair portrayal of the human condition on a daily basis.

    Not to mention it doesn’t sell newspapers. We’ve stopped leaving the morning news on lately – they’re just eulogy shows right now.

    An uplifting story? I felt my first kid kick in my wife’s belly for the first time last night. I can’t wait to meet the little wiggler!

  • anonymous

    I went to the bank last week but then got so distracted by the news that I almost forgot the errand that sent me there. I just remebered, and in time, too! I just sent my less fortunate sister raising two kids in a far away state some cash to help her through another month.

    Not bragging. Just feeling icredibly grateful to be able to do something helpful; something I can control.

  • anonymous

    Ahem,

    Lest you think my story a little sad and not so uplifting, this sister long ago put it in perspective for me, in her usual understated candor, like so: “Our lives are not bad, just low income.”

  • http://sinnemota.blogspot.com corrie

    i don’t have an uplifting story, because most of the ones i hear come from this blog. thank you for championing “good news” as news. the other night i was getting ready for bed and thinking over the news stories i had heard throughout the day, and they were all from Newscut, about good people doing good things for others. thanks for making a positive impact on my life!