Yes, and no, respectively.
It depends on how you look at it. Recent news stories including the Banner's extensive coverage of the largest drug sweep in Vermont history, Operation County Strike, on Jan. 16, during which nearly 50 alleged drug dealers were rounded up in Bennington and the surrounding areas, can be viewed as 1) A positive: Many known drug dealers - including at least one who was observed dealing drugs in a local elementary school parking lot - were taken off the street; or 2) A negative: The whole world now knows we had as many as 50 drug dealers in town.
Some threads on the Banner's Facebook page of late include this one posted Saturday by Betsy Shapiro Greenawalt:"Constructive criticism for the Bennington Banner, this is just an observation made regarding the Friday 2/1/13 paper edition. Front page headlines:
1) Windblown-Tree felled by high winds partially blocking Monument Avenue
2) MAU warns budget, up 6 percent
3) McFadden-Town needs to appeal to young
4) Vets home budget shortfall could approach 3M
5) Buyers sought for Cinema 7
Most of these headlines paint a dreary picture of Bennington. Why not put positive/upbeat news on the front page too? (p.3 has Dow logs best January in nearly 2 decades). There has got to be some good news out there, no? Our town is going through enough drama lately we need some sort of optimism, right?"
Some days what we publish in the Banner merely shows what happened in the area on the day or days before publication - good, bad or indifferent.
As for the Feb. 1 front page, I would argue the article about John McFadden, a 24-year-old candidate for Bennington's select board who would like to see the town cater to young professionals, is positive news. A photo of a broken tree simply depicts what happened in local weather. Budget increases happen all the time.
I agree with Greenawalt that the Dow milestone - which is indeed happy news for our beleaguered markets - could've been included on the front. However, let me point out with pride that we had an all-local front page that day. No wire news, no articles borrowed from sister papers. ALL local. That's a feat that doesn't happen often in the newspaper industry but does happen here in Bennington fairly often and should be commended.
Marilyn E. Jess of Shaftsbury Center replied to Greenawalt's Facebook posting:
"Gee, it would be nice to feature better news. However today's editors seem to think that disaster sells better. May be another reason their paper struggles so."
Contrary to what some might believe, we at the Banner see the good things that happen in town along with the bad. Our staff lives, for the most part, in this community. We, too, embrace what you might call "better" or positive news. When we report a hard news story, such as an investigation of an alleged prostitution ring in town, it's because it's news and it's happening in our town.
The Banner reports the news.
A lot of folks, including some of our Facebook followers, have said they would like to read more "positive" stories, such as articles about the good that local students are doing, be that in a sports, music, scouting or academic competition. Or coverage of a nonprofit that held a fundraiser to feed those in need (see the photo of Hoosick Falls' "Hoosipalooza" on today's front page). If we fail to cover such events, in our defense, sometimes the paper is not informed when a "positive" event is going on, or perhaps the organizer waits until the last minute to tell us - and finds our resources are already committed elsewhere.
Peter J. Brady commented on Facebook, on the same thread, "Much of today's news is bad. The Banner is a reflection of life in town. I believe we can turn it around and start putting some positive things out there. Bennington is a special place and will shine again. It is up to us to build it and they will come."
There are already many positive, newsworthy events, people and places being reported on in the Bennington area. In contrast to Greenawalt's aforementioned Facebook post, here are five examples of positive news that have been reported in the Banner recently:
1) "Really, it's the Arlington Green Bridge" a Jan. 31 news article about the bridge, surrounded by autumn splendor, being featured on a commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.
2) "Jay's Art Shop and Frame Gallery enters 41st year," a Feb. 2 business feature about the longtime downtown Bennington shop that attracts customers from near and far.
3) "A SEASON WORTH THE WAIT: Hoosick Falls coach Tom Husser delays cancer treatment for title run," a Jan. 25 sports feature about a local girls' soccer coach who put his health second to his team's success.
4) "Woodford level funds its budget," a Feb. 2 news article about a local school district in which taxes are set to remain the same.
5) "Compost facility set for Act 250 permit hearing," a Feb. 2 news article on the progress of a new business that will create two jobs and will lessen the amount of organic materials now being added to landfills.
I hope you'll agree that the topics we cover in the Banner are not all negative.
We are open to your feedback. The Banner will be hosting a discussion among readers in the coming months and we'll be asking for your opinions. I hope you'll feel free to share them.
In any case, thank you for continuing to read and support your hometown newspaper, the Bennington Banner.