June 23, 2011 11:48:00 AM
Recently, the newspaper has received criticism for prominently featuring violent crime stories, particularly a story about a Columbus man who attacked another with a machete.
A reader suggested we run such stories on inside pages rather than the front page.
As a newspaper, it''s our responsibility to report the news, good and bad. And in an area like ours, where crimes of this nature are rare, a man wielding a machete is front-page news.
Just this week, an investigative TV show sought Dispatch file stories for a piece on the 1990s killings of senior citizens in Lowndes County. The local newspaper is the go-to source for such things, the record keeper of the daily life in the communities it covers.
Some have accused us of only being interested in selling more papers.
We are guilty of being a business. Crime stories are some of the most-read articles on the website, and they do tend to send papers flying off the racks.
But we are more than a business. We are an integral part of the community; we want to paint a fair picture, one that will help us make this a better place, not merely increase sales. This, again, takes reporting on the good and the bad.
Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John has said that it is a positive thing for these types of crimes to be on the front page of the local newspaper. It means the community still cares.
When we start to bury them on the inside of the paper, it means one of two things: Either we are dubbing ourselves the gatekeepers, trying to hold back reality in an effort to paint a prettier picture, or there is so much murder and mayhem, it no longer warrants front-page play. Both scenarios are frightening.
If you flip through weeks of Dispatch publications, you will find there is more good news on the front page than bad. Recent editions featured heartfelt stories about Boy Scouts, a community''s outpouring of appreciation for a fallen soldier and the naming of a stretch of road for a longtime sports announcer at Mississippi State University - glimmers of light that illuminate the Golden Triangle.
Occasionally, yes, there is a violent crime, and if severe or strange enough, it ends up on Page One. To do less would be irresponsible of us and a disservice to the public.
Long after the TV sound bites are silenced and the rumor mills die down, a newspaper''s gripping front-page photo will remain, as will the printed words.
The numerous comments and e-mails on this topic alone serve as a testament to the power of print. It''s a responsibility we don''t take lightly.
kat commented at 6/23/2011 12:09:00 PM:
I think The Dispatch does an excellent job of presenting the news as well as the daily activities of Columbus and the surrounding area. Although the articles are not always as conservative as I would like, I do appreciate the diversity and the opportunity to comment on stories with other readers. Keep up your hard work and keep us informed so we will know exactly what is happening in Columbus_ front page or not...we just need to know!
concernedmom commented at 6/23/2011 1:00:00 PM:
I would think it very strange indeed if a machete-wielding madman did not make it as front page news. Thank goodness that is a rarity in our area! The newspaper is designed to enlighten the public, not paint a "pretty picture" on the front page. The front page news can be truly frightening, but it does not change the facts to hide it inside the paper. There are many great things to report around the Golden Triange, and I feel that the many news sources here in the area do just that, but headlines and lead stories should always be the ones that bring awareness to potential dangers and problems that may affect you and/or your neighbors.
bmcd1234 commented at 6/29/2011 12:18:00 AM:
?What's the big deal anyway, is someone afraid their children might see the front page or something? We are all adults, and I as an adult choose to buy a paper by what I can see of it. Papers in machines are folded in half, and I want to see what the heck is goin on. Don't most of us walk up to a counter and then see something that catches our eye on the newspaper? I know I just have to see what's goin on, especially if it involves some kind of danger in my community. I choose my paper by what I see on the front thank you.