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Telling the “good news”

A few weeks ago, maybe not even, we received one of those random calls you often get in a newsroom. The long-shot “this happened, and I think it could make a story” type of tip. But it was from a woman in Texas. And it was just crazy enough but also “feel good” that we pursued it.

You can read my complete story or find the AP version of my story pretty much anywhere by Googling the woman’s name (or on CNN.com to make it easy for you).

Basically, the woman took off her rings to make homemade fudge for a company bake sale. Forgot about the rings until several days later, when she discovered her mother’s diamond ring was missing. After searching every where, even emptying the garbage, she tracked down the name and e-mail of the woman who’d purchased the fudge thinking it a long shot. The buyer, meanwhile, had given the fudge to her sister-in-law’s father in another city. He had discovered the diamond ring during a midnight snack. The woman who bought the fudge got the ring from him, noticed the similarity to her own mother’s diamond ring and set out on a quest to find its owner as well. Though the two worked in the same office, they were in different departments and merely knew of each other before. They exchanged e-mails and the woman got her mom’s diamond back.

So, that’s a funny and heartwarming story, right? Yet, when I was finally able to track down e-mail addresses and phone numbers for the women — not as easy as it sounds — and they called me back they were like, “I don’t really see why this would be a story.” And I explained to them that, well, people just don’t do that. Not everyone finds a diamond and then goes hunting for its owner. At first reluctant, they gave me the interview but declined a photo.

My story ran on our front page and, as I noted above, the wires picked it up (tightening and rewriting a bit, but using my reporting and quotes, etc.). It spread to pretty much … everywhere. (Which hey is cool by me!)

My ME flagged something for me today on our opinion page. The woman who lost the ring wrote a letter to the editor praising us for the story (which led to several TV appearances and the articles spreading around the world). That made me feel good. As she notes, she now realizes why it’s important to tell these feel good stories. Here’s her letter:

Public eager to hear positive news stories

When Meranda Watling contacted me about how I lost my ring in a batch of fudge, I thought she was making a mistake (Journal and Courier, Dec. 29). Who would care?

Was I wrong.

After the story ran here, we saw the article online all over the world: China, Australia and Germany. I have done interviews for WLFI and Fox & Friends so I could publicly thank Linda Rhoades and Red Matson for their kindness, and have now been contacted by a national talk show.

This tells me people want to be told that good things still happen in this world. We hear so much negative news that we forget we are surrounded by wonderful people every day.

I just wanted you to know how right Meranda was in choosing to write a positive, up-lifting article. All the attention has reaffirmed to me just how starved we are for positive news.

We need to be reminded that most people are honest and willing to be good to one another. How many acts of kindness occur daily that we do not hear about?

I am so very grateful to have my mom’s ring back. To me, it is my own personal miracle. I feel very humbled and blessed by this whole experience.

I know this story brought joy to many people, for I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls. So, please, keep up the good work by including other positive stories in your paper on a regular basis.

Linda Vancel
West Lafayette

I am constantly reminding people who complain that we’re always slamming this or writing about the negative that most of what I write is positive (or at the least and most often, neutral). For every story you hear about low graduation rates or a failing school, I probably write three times as many “this great new opportunity is being offered to students,” or “third-graders at City Elementary School are learning about engineering as part of a grant the teacher received …” you get the idea. But, yeah, people remember the negative. Which makes it all the more imperative that we do strive to balance it with these stories that just remind you there are good people in the world and in our communities.

One Response to “Telling the “good news””

  1. Josette Says:

    It was pretty awesome to see this story go viral. I smiled when I saw it on the Obscure Store and Reading Room; back in the day, when I had free time, I would send Romenesko URLs of oddball J&C stories to put up on the blog. Good times.