Gary Lloyd saw some rough stuff as a journalist. His first week on the job as a reporter in Mississippi took him to the county prison where one of the inmates reached through the bars of his cell and said, “I know you. You’re that reporter.”
He saw the blood in the seats after an SUV hit a dump truck head on. He saw a family bloody and bruised after crashing their car into a ravine full of bamboo.
And like most journalists, Gary separated himself from the tragedies. At the time he didn’t know it was getting to him, but as the days went on and the crimes piled up, he found himself exhausted from the day-in day-out of hard-news reporting.
“You have to desensitize so that you can cover things factually and objectively,” Gary said. “I interviewed families of crime victims matter of factly when necessary. I took tongue lashings from spouses of people charged with heinous crimes. So, no, I don’t think it got me down, per se, but it did burn me out covering dozens of burglaries, robberies and several murders.”
And after seven years in a newsroom, Gary gave up the hard-news-reporting business and settled into writing books.
If It Bleeds, It Leads
There’s an old saying that has been around newsrooms for years: If it bleeds, it leads. It’s gory and crass, but there’s a reason for the adage. The more shocking the headline, the more the story will get read. Since media outlets rely on views and papers bought, they have to go to the most popular stories just to stay alive.
Still, there are some journalists out there who take a little extra time to find the good news in a community. Even as Gary was reporting on crime and death, he made a concerted effort to get the positive news out.
“I covered whatever I could that was good,” Gary said. “I believe that’s needed to balance out the bad that drives website traffic and whispers in communities. You don’t make any of it up, of course, but you do try your best to seek out the good in your coverage area. You find the childhood cancer stories that end in remission and a long life. You find the woman who drove more than a hundred people home in the ice and snow. You find the woman walking across the country to raise awareness for homeless veterans. I always tried to place these stories prominently in the newspaper so that it stood out when most of the other stories were about crime, corruption and more.”
After writing three other books—a historical nonfiction about Trussville and two sports novels—Gary decided to use his skills to get more good news out. That’s when he wrote “Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South.” The book has real life stories about the beauty that can be found in the people and places you see every day.
“I decided to write this book because I know what drives ratings and traffic these days, which means I also know what so many people desire to see,” Gary said. “I know political shouting matches, riots and coaches on the hot seat after two games are the things people most talk about. These are some dark times we live in. But I believe people desire to read about and see the good in the world. Those things get buried in the headlines.”
It’s also a testimony to his life’s mission. Recently Gary heard a sermon on what it means to be a light in a dark world. That’s what he hopes to do with his writing.
“I hope it uplifts people when they’re feeling down,” Gary said. “I hope it uplifts their spirits when they have an awful day at work or can’t find a great story in the newspaper or on television. And here’s the crazy thing: These are only the stories I’ve encountered in a short amount of time in a defined space. Can you image how much more good there is out there in your community, in your hallways, in your workplace? Those are always the stories worth pursuing, reading, watching and listening to.”
You can find out more about Gary on his Facebook page.
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