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Mormon Media Observer: AP story about measles vaccinations shows media do report good news

One of the most common complaints about the news media seems always to be that the news is too negative.

While it is true that disaster, corruption and threat will always be news, a story this week from the Associated Press shows the complaint isn’t always true.

The story is this: According to the World Health Organization, millions of children’s lives were saved between 2000 and 2010 because of immunization for measles.

It’s a project the LDS Church has played a role in, along with many other organizations.

According to the AP, deaths from measles fell from about 535,300 annually to 139,300 annually, a 74 percent drop. Add those numbers up and millions of lives have been saved. The AP says the number of lives saved is nearly 10 million over 10 years. That’s the equivalent of nearly one in 30 Americans — or more than three times the population of Utah — a major achievement.

Since 2003, the church has donated millions to the anti-measles campaign. (Each vaccine costs only 83 cents.)

More than 60,000 church volunteers have also helped spread the word about the vaccine or volunteer in other ways.

The church has helped in many efforts — in Cape Verde and Botswana and other African countries.

In 2007, more than 20,000 LDS young people in Guatemala went door-to-door spreading the word about a free vaccination program in that country.

It’s a commitment from the church that continues.

Today, as much as 85 percent of the world’s population has received immunizations for this terrible disease.

The point: While we hear about malfeasance and war, inefficiency and startling corruption, smart, caring people from many organizations, including the LDS Church, do make a difference. This is news worth celebrating.

And it shows quietly that the charitable nature of many Latter-day Saints continues to make a profound difference.

To be sure, church members likely don’t care about positive publicity, nor do most people give of their money and talent for publicity.

I imagine lonely widows in Sugar City, Idaho, anonymously donating a dollar or two to humanitarian service on their tithing forms, or a bachelor in Sandy, Utah, doing the same.

I imagine smiling, hard-working Latter-day Saints in Central America and Africa helping save lives. All are Latter-day Saints trying to do as their Savior would have them do, doing what they can do.

I recently read a comment about Gov. Mitt Romney’s extensive donations to the church. The comment was — essentially — that Romney’s donations don’t really count as charity because they are to a church.

I smiled because the commentator seemed misinformed.

The church runs girls camps, basketball leagues, thousands of Boy Scout troops, vast welfare farms and has it members fast monthly so neighbors can receive food and can turn on their heat at night.

While my example is poor at best, for me, learning to live a life of committed, generous sacrifice is the essence of what it is to be a Latter-day Saint. It’s why I most proud to say, as so many do, that I'm a Mormon.

While tragedy and conflict will continue to appear in the news, the success story that is the measles campaign shows news media do highlight good news, too. Thanks go to the AP for this wonderful story.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.