Martine Rolls: Bad news seems a love-hate deal

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Isn't it funny how people often say one thing and do the opposite?

As the online editor for the Bay of Plenty Times, I make an effort to find out what people are interested in so I can fine-tune our online content to suit our audiences' needs and wants.

Whenever we ask our readers, Facebook, Twitter and website followers for their feedback on what we publish, we often hear that they think there is too much focus on bad news.

People say the paper and the site are always full of stories on crashes, robberies, drug raids, sex offenders and doom and gloom.

People say they don't like that. But looking at the three most popular stories on bayofplentytimes.co.nz while I'm writing this, what shows up is this: Tauranga teacher in court, 200 Bay students kicked out of school, and Mount Maunganui bomb threat.

It's local news and it is bad news. People say they don't want to know about it, but these are the stories that got the most hits. So how can that be?

When I look at all the local stories published on our website since Monday morning, which totals about 50 articles including sport stories and opinion pieces, I see plenty of happy and uplifting stuff, too.

It includes stories about Christmas, the Bay of Plenty job market remaining steady this year with almost 6000 job opportunities listed, and a story about two young women who operate bulldozers, diggers and dump trucks.

There's also a story about a gingerbread village being auctioned off to raise money for a local charity, an article on a local fashion designer and retailer who has found a way to stay ahead of the game in tough economic times, and a report on army staff sergeant Suzy Stack from Te Puke who will be on a peacekeeping mission in Egypt this Christmas.

As a news website, and newspaper, we do try to bring you a good balance. Stories about young achievers or golden oldies, appeals for charity, and plenty of other human interest and good news stories certainly do make the paper. It's just that doom and gloom seems to stand out more, and stay in people's minds for longer.

By far the biggest news story in the past week was Friday's (local time) horrific shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults lost their lives.

The tragedy raises lots of questions. Not the least of which being why the gunman's mother kept high-powered weapons in the house, but above all, what set this young man off to go classroom-by-classroom massacring 6- and 7-year-olds?

Was it so people would remember his name?

Will the names and faces of all these innocent little children stay in people's minds?

Will we actually remember the names of disturbed men like Adam Lanza, or James Holmes who killed 12 people and wounded 58 during a midnight premiere of the The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado earlier this year?

Ten years from now, will we remember that mad man in Norway, Anders Breivik, for detonating a bomb in Oslo in July 2011 and shooting dead scores of young Labour Party members at a political summer camp because they held multicultural views?

My hope is that people will remember the name of 27-year old teacher Victoria Soto, who died while protecting children when the gunman, armed with a rifle and two semi-automatic pistols, entered her classroom last week.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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