Guest blog: Local newspapers need to lighten the mood when there is tragedy all around

The so-called silly season appears to have passed the Midlands town of Stourbidge by. Here reader Bob Haywood – who worked in Midlands journalism for 50 years before his retirement – provides a lighthearted critique of a tragedy-filled edition of his local paper the Stourbridge News. And he suggests journalists need to find lighter stories to lift the gloom when there is tragedy all around.

In these troubled times, local newspapers have a special responsibility to try to cheer up their readers.

The splash in the Newsquest-owned weekly Stourbridge News (9.8.12) was about a cricketer aged 33 who collapsed and died playing in a match, watched by his father. The sad tale was turned to P3 – as another top.

The P2 lead told the story of a man of 35 who died from cancer eight months after his wedding. The P5 lead was about the funeral arrangements for a murdered property developer – an older age group here; the victim was 57.

A bold single column on Page 6 told how a girl of 18 was seriously injured after falling off her horse.

P7 was lead with the story of an accountant who killed himself in his blazing-inferno car after he was about to be unmasked for stealing £70,000 from his employers ‘to fund his illegal immigrant girlfriend who was bleeding him dry’. The victim was 56. Alongside the car fire inferno tale was a story about a local teacher who died from a heart attack at the age of 44!

On P8, readers learned in the page lead about charity fundraising efforts for a boy of 18 left paralysed after after a crash on his BMX bike. Page 9 had as its main offering the tale of a boy of 15 who died while playing rugby at his school.

Phew!

And just when the embattled readers might be thinking of slitting their wrists at this remorseless diet of desperately depressing news, the 84-page paper settled down to less traumatic fare – albeit most of it house sale ads.

However, they were left reaching for the razor again on arriving at the back (sports) page as the top was a reprise on the cricketer’s death – in the form of tributes from local sports figures.

There are two morals in this tragic saga: try a bit harder to get some variation in stories; and for goodness sake, stay away from the Stourbridge area – especially if you’re a teenager or a middle-aged man. It could prove fatal.

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