Steve's Blog: News stories often touch lives for the good

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS  (WLOX) - One of the most rewarding things about my job as a journalist is the opportunity to touch lives in a positive way.

We in the media too often face the stereotype that all we do are "bad news" stories; murders and mayhem and such. There are some cases when that's true, but unfortunately we at the "local" level often get lumped together with the "national" media. And these days, that media can be anything from World News Tonight to Inside Edition to The Colbert Report.

Personally, I take no joy in reporting stories like murders and fatal fires and bad accidents. Unfortunately, it's part of my job.

However, I do truly enjoy those times (and they are many) when news stories are able to impact lives in a good way.

I'll share two such instances in this week's blog.  One involves the passionate mission of a cancer survivor and the other a kind hearted woman who saved the life of a remarkable animal.

The more recent story involved "Pink Heart Funds." It's a non-profit group headed by a delightful lady named JoAn Niceley of Long Beach.

Her group supplies wigs for children and adult cancer patients who might not otherwise be able to afford the hair pieces. "Pink Hearts" also provides breast prosthesis for women with breast cancer who are uninsured or under-insured.

Niceley, herself a cancer survivor, began this outreach several years ago when a good friend was facing her own cancer battle.

Since then, "Pink Heart Funds" has grown into something Niceley never would have imagined. The non-profit that began by collecting donations in a pink, heart shaped box had grown into a group that now occupies her former home hair salon.

JoAn Niceley donated her own hair salon as space for the non-profit.  Trouble is, they soon outgrew the small, former salon.  She sent me an e-mail asking for us to do a story about their need for donated space.

The story resulted in a near perfect match.  A construction company in Long Beach had space that it agreed to let "Pink Heart Funds" use indefinitely.  JoAn Niceley told me she was moved to tears when she saw the space in the new building.  It was the perfect size and set up for the growing non-profit.  A good news story indeed.

The other story involved a law enforcement officer and a deaf pit bull dog named Gunther.  Rebecca Hengen, who lives in Biloxi, adopted Gunther, who was probably destined for a death by euthanasia at the shelter.

You see, even healthy pit bulls are not exactly top choices on the dogs people tend to adopt.

I did a story with Rebecca and Gunther, who were competing in a national "adoption" contest at the time.  I found Gunther to be one of the friendliest, most loving dogs I've ever had the pleasure of petting.  It was easy for me to see how Rebecca fell in love with this dog and quickly decided to take him home.

After we first aired it, Gunther's story was picked up by some other groups around the country.  Several animal related organizations used it to promote pet adoption and in particular to help erase the negative stereotype that exists among the pit bull breed.

Rebecca still keeps in touch and lets me know that Gunther is doing well.  They went on to win that competition, and deservedly so.

These are but two of many "good news" stories I've had the pleasure of reporting over the years. Many include the generosity and big hearts of the people of South Mississippi.  I am continually impressed by their willingness to give to others in need.

Pink Heart Funds and Gunther the pit bull are but two good examples of the kind of news stories that make me proud of my profession.

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