Imagine reading a story in the newspaper about the capture of some armed robbers who had broken into a local resident’s home. Would you consider this story good news or bad news?

For some it would be good news that the robbers were apprehended. For others it would be bad news that robbers were operating in this county. For families and friends of the robbers, it might be bad news because these criminals were caught.

There have been times in the past when I’ve measured inches in the paper comparing good news, bad news and just plain news in order to prove that bad news seldom prevails.

I admit I had to roll my eyes when I read Editor Patrick Bilow’s editorial in the March 2 Herald when he divulged the fact that someone at St. Vincent Health was angry because the newspaper didn’t run a news release regarding some sort of award that the hospital received. The hospital was hoping for good news; not much of the news over the past few months could be considered positive when it comes to St. Vincent.

Bilow then cited an incident experienced by former editor Rachel Woolworth when she was told by a reader that negative stories (these were related to law enforcement) only served to divide the community. This also inspired an editorial.

Requests for good news are actually rather common. I remember when a reader, apparently mistaking the newspaper for a public relations tool, asked me to make sure that the front page of the Herald before special event weekends only included good news. This would give visitors to town a good impression, he said. 

One story I have told through the years to other editors relates to St. Vincent Health just as Bilow’s editorial did, and it also revolves around a plea, or perhaps demand would be a better word, for more positive coverage for the hospital. This was back in 2014 when the hospital was on the verge of closing, and of course it was the subject of numerous news stories, few of which could be labeled good news.

It was a Tuesday morning at the Herald office. Tuesday was and is press day, so it is extremely busy for all the staff. I was usually willing to speak with people who just dropped by the office, but did appreciate it when people asked if I had time to talk and were willing to come back at another time if it was inconvenient. That Tuesday, as I recall, was particularly rushed. 

Anyhow, in marched a man whom I didn’t know but who introduced himself as an employee of the hospital and immediately said he came to talk to me about — you guessed it — putting more positive news about the hospital in the paper. I should add that he brought two young children with him who were turned loose in the newsroom. My staff had a few complaints about that after they finally left, and even Harriet, the office cat, seemed a bit ruffled.

Back then the extended care (nursing home) patients of the hospital had been told to find other places to live, and this was heartbreaking for them and their families. I had listened to many of their stories. Finances were dismal. There were concerns being expressed about the future of health care here. An actual date had been set for St. Vincent’s closure. 

So when I was asked to put more positive news in the paper about the hospital, I responded, “Do you want me to lie?”

Apparently I offended him.

But he did get his revenge, to some degree. A few weeks later the hospital held a community meeting about the future of health care in the county where members of the public were invited to speak. I was there covering the meeting, and this gentlemen was also in attendance. (I’m not using his name, but I haven’t forgotten it.) Anyhow, he got up and started talking about what a horrible person I was. He went on and on. He described coming to my office to ask about getting more positive news about the hospital and (correctly) quoted my response. He said the Herald was the most biased newspaper he had ever seen. He went on and on for what seemed an eternity, but I will concede that time seems to pass more slowly when someone is talking about what an awful person you are. Since the subject of the meeting wasn’t me, I thought some of the top hospital brass might shut him off at some point, but no, that didn’t happen. I’m sure more than one of them secretly enjoyed his diatribe. Anyhow, he finally ran out of steam and the meeting got back on track.

This gentleman likely thought the upper management at the hospital would embrace him as a result of his performance; it is my understanding that this did not happen. 

In any case, it appears that there will always be some elected official, administrator or just a plain old bully demanding that a newspaper bend to their will and scrounge up some “positive” news, especially when the roof appears to be falling in around them.

Here’s the good news: If we’re very lucky, these actions will be countered by an unyielding newspaper focused on providing the truth, good or bad. 

Martinek can be reached at


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