Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » How do we reflect society without glorifying the mistakes some make?


One formula for a good newspaper story goes like this: A person makes a serious error or has something bad happen to her and then she works against all odds to overcome that mistake or misfortune.

That's how our Sunday "Your Schools" story started, too. Victoria school district officials contacted education reporter Carolina Astrain about writing a story to let people know about the upcoming Family Expo. As reporters are trained to do, she asked the officials for a human-interest angle to make the story real rather than an abstraction.

This official explanation of the Family Expo, which will be at 5:30 p.m. May 21, evokes little emotion: a family resources fair for students whose families are in need of mental/physical health or other forms of assistance.

As an example of people who might be helped by the expo, a school official pointed us toward a young couple who had made what most would consider the serious mistake of teen pregnancy. On Sunday's "Your Schools" page, our reporter shared their story and outlook on the huge responsibility they will face soon.

The teens credited their school counselors for guiding them through the challenges so far and said they were resolved to beat the odds. "This is just something that God has put in our lives for a reason," the soon-to-be mother said. "He wouldn't have put in our lives if we couldn't handle it."

Commenting online, some readers accused the Advocate of glorifying teen pregnancy.

"The only thing this article is bringing awareness to is that nothing is changing in Victoria, and now, if you have a sad story, you can make the news!" one reader wrote on our Facebook page. "Glorify the teen pregnancy and then advertise how the community can assist it via an expo. The awareness of the expo did not have to be accompanied by this story in my opinion."

We've had similar conversations with readers before: When we feature people dealing with a societal issue, we aren't trying to glorify them. Rather, we want to reflect real life.

My own teenage daughter read the story Sunday morning and certainly didn't leave it with the impression that pregnancy would be a good idea at her age. Instead, we talked at the breakfast table about how difficult this couple's lives would become.

In writing about the teen couple, we're not taking a position on what I, as a father, would consider to be the mistake they made in getting pregnant. We're not even taking a position on whether the school district's family expo is the right way to help teens or families. That's up to you to decide.

Journalism aims to make people think and feel. We don't all have to think the same thing, but we hope our stories make you care.