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, and I’ll turn them over to my colleagues in exchange for treats.