Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 12, 2004


A phenomenon the major news networks never notice


          An observable fact of our time is that bad news sells newspapers and popularizes television news shows. Good news simply does not “sell” as well as bad news, like it or not.

          This reality has amazed me for a long time. Why are we all like that – more interested in the bad than the good? I raise this question not to criticize those who report the news; they are simply doing what is good for business. They understand people very well.

          Consider, for example, the publicity given for a year or more to the Scott Peterson trial. Peterson’s face is as recognizable now as the face of the Pope. Every day, every night, Greta (I confess my bias toward Fox News) and others tell us more than we want to know about this case.

          If like me you have wondered what Greta will report once the Peterson case becomes history, have no fear. Someone somewhere will kill his wife and we will hear all the gory details until we are sick of it.

          My barber, Jerry Willis in Wetumpka, owns the barber shop where I received my first hair cut. Demp Thrash owned it then and for many years afterward. Demp became a legend in Wetumpka and Jerry is following in his footsteps.

          In his spare time Jerry has restored a 1955 Chevrolet convertible. He found the car in a junk yard and brought it home. For the past three or four years Jerry has sanded the body, replaced worn parts, and at last has restored the car to its original beauty. He showed me pictures of “before” and “after” and I was frankly amazed. He has devoted hundreds of hours to the redemption of a wrecked and discarded car.

          What amazes me, however, is that this unusual accomplishment is not “news.” Few people will ever drive over to Jerry’s home to see his car, yet nine out of ten of us will drive out of our way to view a car wrecked in a high-speed chase with police. A wrecked car in which several people were killed interests us even more.

          This is simply the nature of news. Bad news gets attention. Good news is ignored.

          Terrorists detonate a car bomb killing people in some remote place in Iraq and their evil deed makes the evening news. No attention, however, will be paid to courageous missionaries who have been quieting serving others in that area for many years, at the risk of their lives.

          Consider the story of Art and Frances Blackburn, for example. Just a few years ago both had good jobs and a lovely home in Opelika. They were raising their three children, going to church every Sunday, and enjoying the benefits of the good life.

          When their church asked for volunteers to spend 10 days doing mission work at an isolated village in Ecuador, they joined the team. While there, Art saw the need for a person with his skills to administer the work of a small hospital. The plight of the people there began to tug at his heart until he and Frances decided to accept the challenge.

          An international missionary organization, HCJB World Radio, accepted them and began their rigorous training for service. Nearly a year was devoted to learning Spanish, a tough assignment for both.

          Three years after volunteering to go as missionaries, they were assigned this year to Shell, Ecuador. Art’s vision of directing the work of a jungle hospital is now a reality. Frances is teaching in a kindergarten, helping shape the lives of three little boys, all children of fellow missionaries in Shell.

          Think about all this from the standpoint of news. Brutal terrorists cut off the head of an American engineer in Iraq – that is major news all over the world. A couple leaves a comfortable life in Opelika to serve the poor in South America – that does not make the news. Neither Greta nor Dan Rather will ever report it.

          So what is the bottom line? Perhaps this: The fact that good work does not make the news must not deter us from doing good work. If deeds of love and mercy are never publicized, they still have merit in the eternal scheme of things.

          There is, after all, someone who pays close attention to things that never make the evening news or the morning headlines. + + + +