Telling the tough stories

Every day this newspaper is filled with stories.

Stories about new businesses, winning sports teams and outstanding volunteers. Stories about political quandaries, fundraising efforts and new learning methods.

Stories that matter to you, our readers.

Most journalists will tell you they chose this career because they love to tell those stories. Others will tell you they like engaging with the public, or creating a product the community doesn’t just want, but needs.

Telling the happy stories — that’s the fun part. But we’re equally responsible to tell the tough stories, too.

This week, you likely read a sad story either in your newspaper or on our website. Dowagiac readers remembered the life of Ed Kaszlauskas, a longtime local business owner. Niles readers mourned the loss of two young adults killed in an accident after a car landed in a local creek.

Despite what you may have seen in movies, these stories provide no thrill for the writers. We aren’t excited to share this information, and it often takes a toll on us, too.

But that doesn’t make those stories any less important. In fact, the toughest stories to tell are often the ones the community needs to read most.

When tragedy strikes in small towns — whether something that provides a little time to prepare for as in the case with Mr. Kaszlauskas, or unexpected as in the case of Autumn Mehl and Steven Rough — the whole community feels the magnitude of the loss. Those closest to the victims search for answers, solace and memories, and we do our best to satisfy those needs.

When reporting on difficult situations like the ones we’ve covered this week, our staff is trained to approach those affected delicately, and to search for answers to the questions everyone seems to be asking. Our intent is not to be intrusive or to cause any more pain to those who are already suffering. Our intent is to document the situation, investigate the problem and disseminate our findings.

Sometimes the answers we find aren’t pleasant, but I can assure you we don’t make decisions on whether or not to publish the information lightly. We carefully calculate the necessity of the information we share and are careful to publish it as accurately and directly as possible.

I expressed just a few of the reasons why journalists choose to be journalists. I too share a love for telling stories, working with our readers and producing products that are necessary to them. Even more so, though, I chose this career — and Leader specifically — because I feel a responsibility to this community. I know this area like the back of my hand and am connected to so many people in the region. This is what makes community journalism — as opposed to larger metropolitan news — special. When tragedy strikes, we aren’t on the outside looking in; we’re feeling the pain right along with you, asking the same questions and seeking solutions to the problem.

These stories are our response to that pain, our way of finding those answers and solving those problems.

As much as I’d like every story we publish in this newspaper to have a happy ending, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we turned our heads to the more difficult news. So if we can’t always tell the stories you want to read, we’ll do our best to provide information you need to read.

 

Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at ambrosia.neldon@leaderpub.com.

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