Published August 11, 2008
Last Friday, I hosted summer camp kids from the Jewish Community Center. They spent about an hour visiting The Vindicator.
One of the last places I have guests visit is our hallway of historic front pages. The pages cover many significant events of the 20th Century -- up until Nixon's resignation. Many of the pages deal with the tragic events of that century: MLK, JFK, Titanic, World War II, Nixon ...
While the hallway isn't absent of glorious events, the emphasis is largely on the tragedies.
A teenager walking the hallway shook his head staring at the pages. With his eyes scanning the pages, he said to no one and any one "Youngstown has always been about bad things."
I asked him what he meant by that. He snapped out of his gaze and realized his words had an audience. "I don't mean The Vindicator. I mean the town."
I asked him to wonder how much his perception is shaped by how much he's exposed to the bad: TV footage, newspaper front pages, radio announcements.
He shrugged and offered that, yes, that could be the reality.
I asked him to hang in there with us -- that we're working hard to show a different Mahoning Valley.
That was Friday. On Monday, I kid you not, this email came in:
Todd: I just wanted to pass along some compliments that I've heard throughout the community. Everyone who has commented on the "new" Vindicator has said that they are so pleased with the interesting, positive articles that are gracing the front page of the publication. Most people were "tired" of the negative publicity that the Mahoning Valley was receiving, especially from our own paper. Thank you.
The stories that have filled the Vindy for years are as valid a selection of news stories as I've read. It's a formula for news employed by many newspapers. I'm fine with the formula.
But I also love to employ a tweak on that formula that I've learned over the years. That tweak is to showcase the community at its best — and to do so in as equal of doses as you show the community at its worst.
I think it's important to do this for big things, from high school graduations to football; from Kelly Pavlik to new
shifts at Lordstown.
But I also think you need to work hard at covering – or uncovering – more community-based things such as each and every one of the 53 Italian festivals in the area, Eagle Scout projects, YMCA programs and more.
It's a slow process.
It's reassuring when folks e-mail me like the person did on Monday.
But it’s rewarding when we can impact the perceptions of teens like the kid from JCC so that he sees more in Youngstown than all of the bad.