Before diving into this week’s problems and complaints, I’d like to take a moment to thank the reporters for all their hard work. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge people for the good things they do. Sure, they make mistakes every now and then. But, overall, they’re doing their best, and we should all show them some appreciation. Now, to this week’s goofs, gaffes, and grievances …
One reader angrily wondered how our coverage of monthly city-council meetings always seems to wind up on page A8, while other stories she considered less important, including one about a family’s puppy nearly drowning in a pool and one about a local resident’s ambitious flower garden, made the front page. Newspapers commonly receive complaints like this, but the fact is that putting together a paper comes down to priorities. We all have priorities. For example, some of us like to save our money to go on a decent vacation, while others seem to care only about buying more old furniture that nobody is allowed to sit on anyway. The fact is that the editor has chosen to prioritize human-interest stories over local politics, and this probably isn’t going to change anytime soon, no matter how foolish and wasteful it is.
Turning to Community Briefs, several readers noted that we listed the wrong date for last week’s Red Cross blood drive. Since we know people rely on the Briefs to plan their calendars, we take mistakes there very seriously. The editor responds: “We are very sorry for this mistake, and we are exploring new procedures to prevent it from happening again.” Admitting a mistake and vowing not to let it happen again should be enough to rebuild some of the lost trust. At least, that is how normal people behave.
Moving to the sports section, quite a few readers caught a mistake in photograph selection for our story on the North High School’s boys’-soccer-championship victory (“North Champs!!!” Tuesday, C1). Wrote one: “The championship game was at night, and yet the picture accompanying the story is a daytime photo. Perhaps it’s from an earlier game?” I checked this with the photographer, and the readers are absolutely correct. The photo is from the semifinal match with Lakeside, not the final against St. Catherine’s. The editor should have noticed the mistake, because the photo is clearly far too bright to be in the evening, unless the soccer team is playing next to a bedside reading lamp that is as bright as day and can’t be used even to finish a chapter.
Speaking of books, several readers expressed concerns about our story on the effect of cutbacks in library hours (“Library Hours Shortened,” Thursday, A1). “The article has no opposing viewpoints,” complained one reader. “While it was important to hear the board’s reasoning for cutting back library hours, couldn’t we also have heard from someone who opposed the cutbacks?” The reader makes a good point, since it’s always important to know both sides of every story, whether the subject is library cutbacks or simple flirtation with an Applebee’s waitress. The editor responds: “Yes, after taking another look at that piece, I agree that we should perhaps have included an opposing viewpoint so that readers could have considered both sides of the issue.” That’s a lesson we should all take to heart.
Switching gears a bit: One reader referred to our new masthead as “trashy-looking.” Well, all we can say in response is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The editor notes that the process of selecting a new masthead was a thorough one, and that the paper is happy with the result. Perhaps if we were all that confident about our looks, we wouldn’t get jealous simply because a waitress was being friendly.
On a less friendly note, one reader e-mailed us a one-line complaint: “Your headline ‘High Roller‚’ about the quadriplegic student busted for selling marijuana, was EXTREMELY TASTELESS humor!!!” (Monday, A2). The editor responds: “We apologize to anyone offended by the headline. It was written under a tight deadline and should have been taken out.” It is always difficult to know when a joke goes too far, because people have different sensitivities about different areas. As long as an apology is sincere, it should be accepted, and the offender should not be given the cold shoulder for a week simply because his sister-in-law has no sense of humor.
Also this week, a reader wondered about the lack of coverage of the annual Seniors’ Swing Soiree. “It’s a huge event in town, and it’s always covered. How come not this year?” An excellent question. Perhaps the editor just lost interest in it. Sometimes we just lose interest in things we used to enjoy, which causes us to use excuses like “Not tonight, I’m exhausted.” Hopefully, the editor will change his mind next time and go back to the good old days.
Finally, one reader wrote to point out that in our article about how local coffee shops are responding to new competition from chains like Starbucks (“Coffee Battle Grounds,” Wednesday, A3), we referred to Benson’s coffee shop as Bensons’. OK, come on, people. For the love of God, do you have to point out every little flaw? Is it really that important that we pluralized a coffee shop’s name or spent a few minutes talking with a waitress or unintentionally insulted your sister? Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe if you stopped spending money on useless old furniture, we could afford a vacation somewhere relaxing and romantic, where we could actually have a good time together and not fight for a while, and where maybe you wouldn’t even have to pop so many of those pills. Think about it.