Turns out some folks are upset with the story we published this past Wednesday, where we listed the names of the 17 employees who lost their Sunnyside School District jobs because of budget cutbacks.
We didn't list the names to embarrass them. They did nothing to be embarrassed about.
They lost their jobs because the state cut back on funding to school districts all across Washington. The elimination of jobs, as it was spelled out to us by district officials, was based solely on seniority. It simply came down to who was hired last.
We could have avoided upsetting some of our readers by not listing the names of these 17 people. So why did we?
Another simple answer...the names in this news article put a face to this story. It's one thing to look at a story and read that 17 people lost their jobs. It's easy to think, big deal, the school district employs hundreds of people, what's 17 positions? It's another thing to read the names of the people who lost their jobs. In a small community like ours, chances are you either know some of them or someone in your family knows them.
Basically, the story takes on a more meaningful feel when presented with actual people who fell victim to the current state of our economy. And again, I add, NOT because these employees did anything wrong.
How many of our readers looked at the headline on Wednesday that said pink slips were issued to 17 school employees, and didn't proceed any further? Quite a few, I believe, considering our own publisher fessed up that he didn't make it past the headline.
How many people went back and read the story once word got out that the names of the 17 were listed for all to see? Quite a few, I believe, based on what I've been hearing.
By putting a face to this story, it ended up getting read by far more people than if we had opted not to list those names.
The benefit? There are now more people aware that this city, this state, heck, the entire nation, is facing some very difficult decisions. It's easy to gloss over a news story that uses only numbers to point out the financial mess we're in. It takes on greater meaning when a face has been put to a story.
Maybe, just maybe, this story woke a few people up to the problems we're facing. How did we get in this mess? Why are my neighbors losing their jobs? Who are the elected officials who allowed us to sink this far in debt? Who should we elect to office to get us out of this mess?
Wednesday's story intimated that more jobs will be lost in Sunnyside before the summer is out. Yes, we'll publish the names of those people, too. Not to embarrass them, because they haven't done anything to be ashamed of. It's simply a matter of putting a face to a story, to help drive home the point that it's people you're reading about on these news pages, not just numbers and figures and statistics.