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No Coverage is Good Coverage?


The Media Might Try Reporting Good News For a Change


Dave Arnold

When I was in high school, I recall standing up one day during a class discussion and complaining that newspapers only reported bad news.

This was in the late 1960s when the war in Viet Nam seemed to dominate the headlines. Civil rights marches in the South and the hippie movement on the West Coast were also receiving a lot of media coverage, much of it negative.

I was upset for some reason or other about hardly ever seeing upbeat news. I wanted more stories about people's good deeds. My teacher said that good occurrences can be viewed as commonplace or too normal to interest reporters.

I remember her saying that the news media gives more attention to train wrecks, homicides and natural disasters because that is what is "out of place."

"What a sad world we would be in if it was the good that was out of place," she said. That's one way to look at it. Still, I'd like to see more good things covered by our nation's newspapers.

Bad News

I hadn't thought much about that discussion until recently when a local school principal was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a student who is a minor. Television, radio and newspaper journalists wasted no time in sharing the news of the allegations and of his eventual resignation.

They all told the same story, over and over and over. It was disheartening to read about a school employee who had gotten into trouble. If he's guilty, he deserves to suffer the consequences. Either way, it generated lots of negative news for educators.

Just when this bit of news was starting to die down, the coverage of John Mark Karr surfaced in relation to the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey. Here it was again: the media repeating over and over the fact that he was a teacher who admitted to the murder and sexual assault of a child. Eventually, it was revealed that Karr didn't commit the crime. By that time, I was beside myself over the media belaboring the fact that these people accused of hideous crimes worked at a school.

As school employees, teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) have a tremendous responsibility. We are some of the most trusted individuals in the work force. Why?

Because parents put their children - among the most valuable natural resources on the face of the earth - in our care. It seems that because we uphold this trust 99.99 percent of the time, very little gets reported about our work. I guess it's just too boring for the media. 

Fit to Print

In case a reporter or two is reading this, here are some of the "boring" responsibilities that ESPs and teachers contend with everyday:

  • School employees are entrusted with the management of multi-million dollar government facilities.
  • Bus drivers are entrusted with the lives and safety of millions of children each day.
  • Secretaries are entrusted with student records, which often contain medical information.
  •  Nurses are entrusted to administer student medications.
  •  School cooks are entrusted with food sanitation and nutrition.
  •  Maintenance employees are entrusted to provide a safe and healthy facility for education.
  •  Security officers are entrusted to provide a safe environment.
  •  Custodians are entrusted to maintain a clean and healthy work place.
  •  Teacher aides are entrusted to help educate those with special needs.

After enduring unending reports about Karr, my preacher put things in perspective. He mentioned my name in a sermon. He mentioned how I carry a huge key ring at the elementary school where I serve as head custodian. The keys are a symbol of trust. 

I do in fact have keys to every classroom, supply closet and office in the school. It was flattering to hear him speak about my moral character and that of our school's teachers and other ESPs.

He also spoke of our responsibility to the children. They are the future, and we are contributing to the world's future by caring for them. And, yes, the world should be shocked when one of us breaks that trust.

I'm thankful that negative news about educators is rare. Educators may often be taken for granted, but we are trusted because we have earned it. I know it, my preacher knows it, and my school colleagues know it. I only wish more reporters knew it.

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at dparnold@csuol.com.)

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.


Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --