Face the problem head-on

Published 6:01 pm Saturday, August 29, 2009

Someone once told me that a newspaper serves as a mirror of the community, reflecting the community it serves and, at times, encouraging change.

Over the past few days, we have received a fair amount of criticism on a story we published in the Thursday edition, featuring two local, young women who gave birth to their first children.

What made the story interesting — and decidedly newsworthy — was the fact the two young women were sisters and gave birth to their sons within three hours of each other.

The criticism leveled upon us was not the fact we did such a story but that the story “gloried teen pregnancy.”

Over the past few days, I and others in the newsroom received phone calls and emails complaining of the story and the perception that we as a newspaper were endorsing the choices these young women had made.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In reading the story, in no way did we offer any opinion – pro or otherwise – on the choices made and the results of those choices. The story stated the facts, offered accurate quotes and told of an event that doesn’t happen every day.

The letters, phone calls and emails prove to me though that Suffolk is a community with passion and spirit. Residents feel such a tremendous ownership of this newspaper that they do not hesitate to offer their opinions.

That passion also offers this community a tremendous opportunity to pick up the problem of teen pregnancy, address it and look for solutions.

In only a short period of time, I have found this large community to be one that can overcome just about anything that is thrown at it or accomplish anything it sets its collective mind to solve.

Take into account the rebuilding of businesses and homes after last year’s tragic tornado. We have together celebrated each opening and each completed project as yet another reminder that any wound can heal if given the proper attention.

Teen pregnancy is a problem, but it is not our problem alone. Other communities face such issues, and they too are looking for ways to cut down on “babies having babies.”

Over the coming days, our reporters and editors will be focusing on the issue of teen pregnancy in Suffolk and the groups and organizations working to cut down on the problem.

It is our hope that the story we told of the teenage sisters giving birth just hours apart will be a story that sparks serious change in Suffolk and, furthermore, is one that we will not have to tell again.