What makes a good front page?

 

To the Editor:

I subscribe to this local newspaper and look forward to reading it every week, but the July 15 edition disappointed me because of the pervasive stories of female felons – a lead story on page one, followed by three other accounts of female lawbreakers on page 5A.

Not since the days of Macbeth and King Lear have women appeared so evil. The tone of a couple of these articles was righteously indignant, celebrating the end of crime sprees by these nefarious females.

While crime stories are important to report, should the lead story of a small tourist town relate the exploits of an identity thief who, using someone else’s credit info, shopped til she dropped at Aaron’s Rentals and wound up eating her way through South of Philly restaurant? A tourist, glancing at our paper, might conclude that this top story is the essence of Sylva.

As I finished section one, I saw SCC’s free tuition story buried on the back page – without a picture of the school, the article half as long as the lead story. Such good news that students have free tuition for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 should be on the front page as the lead story, especially when one considers that educated folks are less likely to commit crimes.

It is generally known and statistically proven that people with a year or more of college tend to be productive citizens and involved in the community and in their children’s schools. They vote more frequently than those without higher education. They show up for jury duty. Just think, if free tuition had been offered to Littlejohn, Adams, Devecki, and Robinson, what might they have done with their lives? We will never know.

Our small-town newspaper should showcase more positive stories on the front page, of institutions offering free tuition or of organizations, such as Circles of Jackson County, helping the downtrodden get back on their feet. Unfortunately, the very fine coverage of Circles’ graduating class was put on page four, accompanied by an editorial from Ann Melton, who opens with the words, “Circles of Jackson County ... desperately needs your help.” Her appeal suggests that we can actually solve a problem if we support Circles. SCC’s free tuition also provides a solution for those who cannot afford to go to college. These, rather than crime sprees, should be cover stories.

I know that newspapers are hurting for readership right now and must appeal to a broad base of individuals who like to read sensational news. But these stories need not be given a prominent place in the paper.

Though not all front-page news can be positive, even stories of auto wrecks, mad cats marauding Dillsboro, and natural disasters like the landslides of Allen Street, if reported conscientiously or examined historically, can evoke our sympathies and call us to action as problem solvers. This is the stuff of a good front page.

Cynthia Faircloth-Smith, Sylva