One of our reporters returned from a meeting this week and told us several community leaders had asked her why this paper insists on displaying stories about murders, rapes and other serious crimes so prominently on our pages. Their concern is that we’re scaring off businesses and industries that might otherwise consider setting up a location in Lufkin or Angelina County.
That sentiment isn’t one we haven’t heard before. In fact, we hear it all the time. And quite frankly, we’re sick of it.
The notion that this paper would do anything to try to discourage any kind economic growth in our area is ludicrous. When we run stories about major crimes on our front page, above the fold, we do so because that’s our job: to inform our readers about the important things that are happening in our community — both good and bad.
We’re not going to bury those stories in our back pages, sugarcoat them in any way, or — even worse — fail to report on them at all in an effort to make this area appear safer than it actually is in an attempt to lure outside businesses to town. We have a responsibility to our readers to let them know just how unsafe our community can be. And we have no qualms about doing our job the way it’s supposed to be done, just like we always have.
If the crimes you read about in the pages of this newspaper are deterring economic opportunities in Angelina County, then let’s fix the real problem — crime.
Maybe our law enforcement officers are stretched too thin and the departments they work for don’t have enough money. That shouldn’t be news to any of our readers. Nor should it be news that nobody wanted their taxes raised to remedy that problem.
Maybe we have drug and alcohol problems in our community that aren’t being properly addressed. Changes in federal funding have left Lufkin’s Burke unable to offer detoxification services to those who aren’t suffering a mental health crisis since September 2017, although the center still provides detoxification services for those in care for a mental health crisis.
Maybe there are portions of Lufkin that aren’t adequately lit. We think better lighting would go a long way toward making us all feel safer, in addition to rolling up the welcome mat for many of these crimes.
There’s no shortage of things this community can be doing to actively improve our crime rate. Asking this newspaper to pretend it doesn’t exist isn’t one of them.
And as if businesses considering this area wouldn’t look at the official crime statistics from the police and sheriff’s office — for the last several years — anyway.
An unscientific and subjective analysis of every story we published on our front page in 2018 showed we had 283 stories that most people would consider “bad” news, including murders, assaults, fires, wrecks, drug offenses and sex crimes. By contrast, we had 424 local stories, give or take, that could be labeled “human interest” or “feel-good” stories. That doesn’t include all the front-page photos of cute kids that we publish, or our daily local sports coverage, or our Charm Lifestyle page stories. And economic development was a recurring theme throughout the pages of this paper last year, as well, as we touted the many new jobs and economic investments that have been made in our community.
But just as with our crime coverage, when an outside business like General Electric comes in and dismantles a local business like Lufkin Industries, you’ll find that coverage plastered all over our pages. We won’t sugarcoat it, nor will we bury it. The headlines will be in bold type, on the front page, above the fold.
Right where those important stories are supposed to be.