The journalism of no hope

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Good morning,

Al Neuharth may be spinning in his grave over the last couple of front pages of the News Journal.

Neuharth – who expanded the Gannett newspaper empire with cash cows like the News Journal liked to talk about the “journalism of hope” while ensuring that margins of his papers ran well into the double digits. The Journal was sold by DuPont family interests to Gannett in the late ‘70s.

While the hope philosophy neverquite caught on at the more somberNews Journal, it was embraced at Neuharth’s passion project, USA Today. Gannett is gradually rebranding its newspapers, with reporter bylines carrying the USA Today Network tagline.

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Al, who passed away in 2013, would have found little of that in the past couple of days in Delaware’s largest newspaper, which has featured gloomy front pages outlining the horrors of the heroin epidemic, an alleged botched surgery, and the following puzzling headline:

Small biz owners: Delaware is not very welcoming. The second deck carried the more accurate, but yawn-inducing headline: Project to provide market analysis.

Many of us expected the story had something to do with the continuing debate over the state’s business climate. Instead, it outlined an innovative program that will provide a market analysis for start-ups.

Perhaps realizing that the headline was a tad misleading, the online version of the story carried the following head-scratcher that would have sent my seventh grade English teacher into a tizzy. What small businesses are in Delaware? There will soon be a document for that.

First of all, don’t blame the reporter. Editors write headlines.

We all have bad days, but it might be useful for editors to learn more about Neuharth’s take on looking at the bright side.

It is true that Neuharth’s philosophy sometimes equated with the fad of happy talk on local TV news. Still, a dose of hope in the form of a nice front page feature story would have been a welcome relief.

A quick update with grave implications. Today’s News Journal featured a story on the discovery of skeletal remains at a homestead near Rehoboth and of course we had to see the dearly departed on the front page. It’s fascinating reading, but first check out the well-crafted Washington Post story.

Agree or disagree? Let me know and hit the return button on this Email. – Doug Rainey Publisher

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