Editor’s Desk: Cleo Smith, JC shooting, Russell Woolf’s death — we’re suffering from ‘relatable news syndrome’

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Missing girl Cleo Smith, 4.
Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith, 4. Credit: Facebook / Ellie Smith/Facebook / Ellie Smith

I call it “relatable news syndrome” and we are drowning in it.

Yes, we all know bad news dominates the headlines but when all the bad news seems to be happening in your backyard, it wears you down. Because you can relate more to it. You could have been to the places or know the people at the centre of these stories.

The baffling mystery of Cleo Smith’s vanishing is case in point. Many of us have camped at the Blowholes before, been to Carnarvon many times. You might even know the little four-year-old or her mum and or stepdad. Or they could remind you of another similarly ordinary family who wouldn’t have thought twice about a weekend camping trip, not thinking something like this would happen in a million years.

It brings it all too close to home. You want to believe where you live and work and raise a family is safe and a gazillion miles away from the ugly side of the world.

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Stories of mass murders in America, terrorism in the Middle East, natural disasters on the other side of the world are horrifying and depressing. But when shocking stories happen so close you can’t let them go quite so easily. They linger and fester in your thoughts. Many of us would be on high alert, on the off chance we come across any clues.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people who say they can’t stop thinking about Cleo, with some even dreaming about her. It’s even seeping into our unconscious.

Likewise with the fatal shooting of Yamatji woman JC and subsequent murder trial which saw the police officer who pulled the trigger acquitted of all charges. JC’s death, as police and the Indigenous community would agree, has been one of Geraldton’s darkest chapters. But this is our hometown, and I mean everyone’s. So we all have a stake in making sure tensions don’t boil over and we each listen and consider alternative points of view. No one wants to live in a powderkeg environment and just because a jury of 12 found the police officer not guilty, does not mean the protesters taking to the streets calling for change to prevent more deaths in custody are not worth listening to. There are areas of grey in either side of this debate.

For many, the sudden death of ABC Radio presenter Russell Woolf last week was like losing a friend, even though they had never met him. You hear someone’s voice every day and they become a part of your life in a way. It’s a different type of mourning to a Hollywood celebrity’s passing or an overseas sports star’s death because it’s relatable.

Bad relatable news can weigh you down, especially when it seems like one thing after another after another.

In my role, I know it’s important to strike the right balance in the news we cover, which is why we won’t forget about the positive news amid what lately seems like a sea of darkness in the newscape. We sure need some bright spots right now. So please let us know if you’ve got any amazing positive news! Email news@geraldtonguardian. com.au.

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