Matt Knutson: Reporters have to balance news with time

Published 9:14 am Friday, July 22, 2016

Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.

“I wish news wasn’t constrained by time and space,” I told my wife after reading another news story reporting on a tragedy. I often hear people complain about how negative the news is and how some people don’t even bother to participate in it because of the negativity. As I majored in communications in college, I always struggled with people who had that viewpoint. If a crime occurs, would you really rather that go unreported? Companies in the news business strive to be the truth tellers of the community — holding up a mirror to our society. Most people have days they don’t want to look at themselves in the mirror, but it’s a pretty good thing to do regularly.

I dream of a day when news isn’t tied down to a deadline and reporters’ resources aren’t limited. It’s entirely unrealistic, but I think it would help people get the happier content they sometimes seek. While reporters are often on-call at all hours of the day and night, they have a regular shift like most workers. Those reporters are working on a deadline. If you’re assigned a story on a pet adoption event when it’s announced that city hall is on fire, you’re probably not going to get to cover the feel-good story. It’s important for the community to know about the fire, any damage, and what the recovery process might look like. But if there wasn’t that deadline, and newspapers would be able to have an unlimited staff, that pet adoption story that people really wanted to read about could have lived on, and people might feel a bit more optimistic about the world we live in.

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Space is another piece that I wish news media had more of to use. The internet has opened a lot of possibilities in the space realm, but there are still limitations. In a broadcast piece, you’re still limited to 20-some minutes of content. You’re only able to dip your toes in the water for those kinds of stories. Print may have more space, but you can only squeeze so many words in a column. Most media use their primary distribution, paper or television, as their main driver of content, and then that content is recycled for online use. If more space was available for content, there’d be more room for both the fictional city hall fire and the pet adoption piece.

There isn’t though, and there probably won’t ever be more time or space. I’m still surprised that I’m fortunate to take up this space each week in the Albert Lea Tribune to share my ramblings with you. I’m grateful you’re taking the time to read it and the rest of the paper.

Reading this publication and consumer news is important. It provides an education to our community. It serves as a historical reference for what occurred during this time. It brings people together to create change when opportunities for improvement in the community reveal themselves. Certainly you paid to read this paper in it’s print form, but the words can shape you into a better person, and that is priceless.

So to combat the negativity that we sometimes dread in the news, here is a glimpse of a few stories I encountered from all over the place this week that I found uplifting.

A recent wedding in Pennsylvania had a twist: the bride and groom’s grandmothers served as the flower girls. If you love the elderly like I do, you’d surely love that visual. I wish I could have been at that wedding.

A photographer I know is donating his time and talent to take photos of children in foster care — an effort that might increase their likelihood of being adopted.

The money raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago is producing results. Research on the cause of A.L.S., treatment, and therapies are all advancing thanks to the viral fundraiser.

Some Pokemon Go players helped catch car thieves in Washington.

United Way of Freeborn County is hiring. No, I’m not applying for the position, but it’s an incredible opportunity for someone to give back to their community.

While that’s just a small taste of the good news happening around here and around the world, I know that won’t be enough for some people. So start sharing your own good news. Perhaps you won’t have the distribution that the Albert Lea Tribune has, but your good news can help others, and I’m hopeful this helped you. If it didn’t check out the Tribune Thumbs feature from a few days ago. It’s always a source of good.