Too many roses, not enough thorns?
Ray Cappella is my swim meet buddy. Our sons swim for the same aquatics club, so we spend a lot of Saturday mornings together sitting in school lobbies or hallways waiting sometimes hours between our kids’ races. It can get pretty boring, so we chat about this and that. His favorite subject is sports, but he’s also an avid newspaper reader, so we talk about the news of the day — and newspapers in general. On Saturdays, one of the first things he does is rate my “Roses and thorns” editorial for that day.
Some reviewers use stars, but Ray uses thorns. Four or five thorns from Ray would be a blockbuster Saturday. His reviews are based literally on the number of thorns in that day’s editorial. The more thorns the better, from his perspective. Ray is not really a negative guy – just honest.
Roses are boring, he says. They’re all happy news, and congratulations and thank yous. People read newspapers for controversy – and thorns are all about controversy.
He’s right – up to a point. People tell us all the time they want to see more positive, upbeat stories in the paper and at ydr.com. They’re tired of all the negativity in the news. They’d like to read more happy news.
Well, they say that but I’m not sure they really mean it. We do run a lot of positive or neutral stories. Some of them are well read, but the best-read items are the controversies. It’s the same with roses and thorns. We run mostly roses because we really think it’s important to applaud good things in the community. But I suspect most people are like Ray. They skip over the roses and read the thorns.
So, when I only have one thorn in a Saturday editorial, Ray is disappointed. He says he’d like to see at least half and half. But he understands that’s hard to do. The truth is, there are many more things to applaud in our community than to “thorn.”
And if something is thorn-worthy, more often than not it’s worthy of a full editorial rather than a quick-hit item that doesn’t leave a lot of room for argument or context.
I usually end up with two or three thorns on a typical Saturday. I always have at least one. Otherwise the headline would be false advertising. Our sister paper in Hanover runs a similar editorial on Sundays called “Cheers and Jeers.” Rarely do they have any jeers. On jeerless days, I think they should really call it cheers and more cheers.
Anyway, last weekend Ray issued a challenge: How about a Saturday where there are more thorns than roses? How about just one rose?
I didn’t exactly accept the challenge, but we’ll see… If I have a grumpy week or there’s just a week with a LOT of negative news, we might have a “Black thorns and roses” editorial. Probably not until after the holidays, though.
I just hope it works out to be a weekend when we have a swim meet so I can see Ray’s face.