When a man visited The Daily Journal earlier this month with a tip about a suspected murder and cover-up, I stopped what I was doing, grabbed a notepad and pen and sat down to listen with rapt attention.
Could this be the tip we were waiting for? Was it to be today’s top story? Nope. A while later the visitor made clear that this alleged incident occurred nearly two decades ago.
A Richmond County civic organization sent a news release on its newly elected president but the language was a bit iffy. After asking for clarification, it was learned that the news release had intended to be sent in July but, well, time passed and they were just now getting around to it — in October.
Neither the “tip,” nor the submission, passed the common sense test. It simply didn’t seem reasonable to publish something that was meant to be read several months or years ago.
Yes, The Daily Journal sometimes publishes things that happened a week or more before the date of the newspaper. We try to limit that as much as possible. Sometimes we get information in a timely manner but, due to lack of space, it doesn’t get published right away.
In those instances, it can come down to a judgement call. Just because we don’t have space for a news release one day, or for a number of consecutive days, doesn’t mean the number of submitted news items becomes less frequent. That means the pile of news releases grows, and staying true to the “news” in newspaper, that original item gets bumped down the priority list.
No, this won’t make everyone happy. It’s not meant to. Instead, it’s simply an explanation of why some things, without a clear reason, might not be published and some things might be.
There is a general list of questions we ask ourselves when items are submitted for publication.
First, when did it happen? Time is of the essence. We are not a history paper; the Journal is a newspaper — emphasis on news or, rather, new.
Second, where did it happen? The Daily Journal serves the people who live, work and play in Richmond County. Stories need to be Richmond County-centric. If something happened to a Richmond County person in Richmond County, that item is going to be near the top of the list in this category. If an event occurs outside the county, but a Richmond County person is involved, it has our eyes and ears for a moment, at least to consider some of the other questions. If a submission has only a slight, or no, local connection, that item is moved down on the list and might not be published.
Along with a few other factors, a key element is how unique the submission is. Newspapers have almost completely stopped publishing the “dog bites man” stories unless there are extenuating circumstances — as there often are. However, if the man bites back — well, that’s news. And if there’s a photo of it, so much the better.
While we strive to cover Richmond County as best we can — and that includes accepting and publishing submitted information — staged photos of people doing nothing but staring back at the camera isn’t exciting and certainly doesn’t catch the eye of anyone other than the subject’s family members or close friends.
So let us know what’s going on. But if it’s the same old story, something that happens every year, consider telling that story in a different light. After all, if a submission catches our attention, it also is likely to garner the time of The Daily Journal readers — and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?