There’s a difference between news and advertising

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Funny, but it seems like people around here are a little confused about the difference between advertising and news.

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Funny, but it seems like people around here are a little confused about the difference between advertising and news.

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I remember being told by a school board member a couple years ago that the Herald should cover more of the positive things, more of the student awards and less of the financial nightmare that was the Austin school district’s budget reality.

Then there was that Apex meeting where those "who get things done in Austin" debated whether or not the news media should be allowed at their work session, partly because a person had been quoted correctly in a previous article, but didn’t like that particular quote being put in the paper.

That old saying, "The truth hurts," is true.

But so is the one that says "What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger."

But people don’t always appreciate honest reporting, do they?

That’s where the confusion seems to have come in.

Here’s a bit of definition that I hope will clear all this up: You have to talk to the advertising department if you want only the good things in the paper or on the news.

Here at the Herald, you can buy a whole insert, called a "tab" because it’s a different size from the daily broadsheet – tabloid size, and tell the world about your achievements. We’ll even write it for you – for a not inconsiderable fee. That goes for people of all ages at schools, in public service organizations, charities, the City Council, the county board, athletic organizations, you name it.

If you don’t want to pay, but you want to be in the newspaper, then I’m sorry, but we’ll be there with our thinking minds intact.

If you mess up, or say something politically incorrect, or behave in an unsportsmanlike manner and get thrown out of a game, it may – and probably should – be reported in the paper.

When I first started here, and compared the Herald with my hometown paper, the Vincennes Sun Commercial, I couldn’t believe how much the Herald covered, particularly with the area schools.

When I played high school volleyball, we were lucky if the paper printed the stats for the game in small print somewhere near the back of the paper. Our homecoming queen got a one-column mugshot on the inside of the paper; here the parents get mad if its not at least three columns wide in color across the front page.

People want lots of coverage of their events, but they don’t want anything "bad" to be written.

While it may be tempting, don’t shoot the messenger: Number one, because you’re supposed to be mature, law-abiding citizens. Number two, because you should look first to yourselves. We don’t get paid to write fiction down here, so if someone makes an observation in a column, there’s usually a grain of truth in there. And there’s an opinion as well, which you can certainly disagree with and try your darndest to prove wrong.

It stings at first, but when someone writes a letter to the editor or calls me personally to tell me they don’t like what I wrote in an opinion column, I consider it a compliment. It means that they actually read the column in the first place, and it made them think.

That’s what we’re here for: to watch you, to inform you, to make you think. To make you angry sometimes, in a world where too many things are designed to lull away the hours with no need for original thought.

Be grateful you’ve got a staff of people in the newsroom at the Herald who care enough to write the truth, even when it hurts.

Jana Peterson’s column appears Wednesdays