It's said that in television news, "if it bleeds, it leads." That means if there's a crime story to be told, your evening newscast is likely to tell it at the top of the program before anything else.
At our shop, "if it really
bleeds, it leads." That is to say, if a major
crime or accident occurs, there's a good chance it will be above the fold on the front page. Generally, however, local crime/accident news is relegated to Page 2 and beyond.
So here's the rub.
When we publish crime/accident stories prominently, we invariably get complaints from readers accusing us of sensationalizing the news. "All you want to do is sell papers," they'll cry.
Well, yes, we do want to sell papers, or else we won't be around to report on crime or anything else. And we typically sell a lot more papers when there is crime/accident news up front. But we don't want to look like the Police Gazette
either, so, as noted, crime/accident coverage tends to find its way inside the paper.
The thing is, reader protestations to the contrary, people devour this stuff, witness the statistics we generate each day regarding the best read stories on this Web site. Almost without exception, crimes and accidents, even those inside the print edition and on a secondary page of dailyfreeman.com, get the most reader traffic.
It's happening again today as I write this: A story on Page 2 of the paper (a "Police brief" no less), about four Dutchess County men arrested on drug charges in Tennessee, is being read more than any other story on the site.
Put another way, if it bleeds, it's read.