As I went to bed on Thursday evening, the night before the second annual Relay for Life of Springfield Burke, I was surprised that area journalists saw fit to report on a senior prank that got out of control rather quickly at the high school hosting the Relay for Life of Springfield Burke. I found myself researching the meaning of journalism and/or news. The definitions of these words are:
1. the profession or practice of reporting about, photographing, or editing news stories for one of the mass media
2. newspapers and magazines collectively; the press
3. the material published in a newspaper, magazine, etc: this is badly written journalism
4. news reports presented factually without analysis
1. Newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events.
Then I tried to listen to the reports again – several seniors at West Springfield High School thought it would be great fun to engage in a food fight in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, this prank went too far, the event soon spiraled out of control, some students were injured and a fire alarm was pulled that disturbed the entire student body. The principal and administration took care of the situation and vowed that those responsible would be punished accordingly. Sounds like the school had a problem; they intervened, stopped the event, and planned on dealing with those involved in an appropriate manner.
For some reason, the news world decided that this was the most important thing happening in our region on Thursday so they assigned teams of professional journalists to cover the story. They reported it on the news that night, but that wasn’t enough. They showed up again on Friday – the day of Relay.
As we set up for the second and largest Relay event held at West Springfield High School, we saw three television van towers erected to cover the “food fight of 2011.” We encouraged the stations to visit the rear of the school to check out Relay, but as the day went on, the media on site saw fit to only cover the flying food story from the previous day.
Only one local newspaper joined us at the West Springfield High School track to come see what was going on….
And what they saw was nearly 1,100 people brought together with one common goal – to fight cancer. There were young people and adults walking the West Springfield High track from 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM to raise awareness, hope and resources to fight back against cancer. That reporter also saw well over 500 West Springfield High students and their friends walking the track and raising money for the American Cancer Society.
Finally, that local journalist saw numerous student volunteers dedicating their Friday night and Saturday morning contributing hundreds of hours to help volunteer to make the 2011 Relay for Life of Springfield Burke a major success.
But the other professional journalists, the ones with the television towers up at the front of the school’s parking lot, stayed there and waited to get some additional comments and “news” items to report on the flying food incident.
I am not sure why the food fight got so much attention. Especially when so many students who were doing such an amazing thing for our community just a few short feet away from these “journalists” received no coverage at all.
The students I had the honor and privilege to work with on Friday night helped our Relay Committee all year long. They provided talent throughout the night of Relay to help entertain the 1,000 participants. They were the volunteers that helped set up, register, provide logistical support, and coordinated the multitude of activities that went on all night long. And, they were some of the Team Captains that went to Team Captain meetings since January, provided input, and helped to raise awareness and resources to fight cancer.
When it was all said and done, the 2011 Relay for Life of Springfield Burke raised over $142,000 and hosted 1,100 participants.
I am baffled that someone actually decided that the food fight was more noteworthy information the public needed to know rather than covering the amazing thing 1,100 people can do when a community of students, adults, and cancer survivors, can do when they come together for a single purpose.
I’m no journalist, but to me that was the real story at West Springfield High School this weekend and I think the journalists missed out on an amazing opportunity to cover an amazing story that was literally right under their noses.