Monday, December 31, 2007

A look forward, and back, at our year of news coverage

As 2007 fades and 2008 rushes in, I’m taking a time out from readers’ specific questions to write more generally about The Tribune’s news coverage, both looking forward and to the recent past.
If you take nothing else from my commentary today, I hope you will remember this: In all of our reporting efforts in The Tribune and at , we strive to be as fair and balanced as is humanly possible.
Our first and foremost goal is to facilitate our democracy –to thoroughly cover the decisions and debates among our elected representatives, and to give voice to those who have none. We strive to offer diverse ideas and opinions, and to make sure there is robust debate.
We’re acutely aware that every day, when our presses turn and when we make another update on our Web site, we have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of San Luis Obispo County. We can shed light on complicated topics, reveal actions that some people would prefer never see the light of day, and call attention to the many men and women who work diligently to make this county a better place to live.
The coming year promises to be a turning point for the country – some key decisions must be made on the war on terror, and, of course, much of that will be affected by what will surely be a hard-fought presidential campaign. You can count on us to keep you informed on those developments.
Locally, the political scene promises to be intense as well. Three of the county’s five supervisors are up for re-election. Two of them – Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall – face stiff competition from announced candidates, and the third, Jim Patterson, expects to face a credible challenger.
We promise to provide comprehensive coverage of the local campaigns as well as the national campaigns, plus other key issues that emerge. Already, you can access our local election reporting and Washington bureau coverage on our Web site, Just click on the Election box on the right hand side of our home page.
We know that San Luis Obispo County, while a cohesive region in many respects, is fundamentally a collection of distinctive communities that have carved out unique personalities through the years.
As in the past, the top issue that we will address in 2008 is growth and development. How the county and the various city governments handle economic development issues remains, in our minds, the most important topic we can cover as it affects everyone’s daily lives in ways big and small – from traffic congestion, to the ability of our schools to maintain their relatively high quality of education, to where we shop and how our cities will finance government services.
That means you can expect to read more from us on traffic choke points, the proposed Dalidio Ranch project in San Luis Obispo and Wal-Mart in Atascadero, the fishing industry in Morro Bay as well as wine and tourism.

Looking back
This year we set out to offer insight into many issues that affect local residents. I wish we could have reported more stories in each of our communities, from high school sports to deeper coverage of Cal Poly and Cuesta College. Unfortunately, there are always hundreds more great stories than we can possibly get to.
Still, in 2007 we significantly provided more news and information to you by expanding our online presence at, adding more breaking news, morning and afternoon e-newsletters, audio and video reports, staff blogs and crime maps for some cities.
We’ve also provided authoritative coverage on several top issues, most notably:
-- Growth and development: From the Wal-Mart controversy in Atascadero to the Dalidio project in San Luis Obispo, from the burgeoning wine industry in North County to Nipomo’s population expansion and search for new water, we have been at the forefront of reporting how our county is changing as a result of growth.
-- Methamphetamine’s impact: Our investigative series found that the highly addictive drug’s poisonous grip is destroying local families in increasing numbers every year, and the county’s ongoing war against it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Since the series ran in March, the county Board of Supervisors has moved forward with plans to open a much needed detoxification facility for men in 2008.
-- Los Osos sewer: This is the most important issue for the 14,000 residents who live in Los Osos, so we strived to offer informative, useful coverage. Separately, The Tribune Editorial Board offered insight and urged voters to approve a crucial sewer tax. They did.
-- Investigation into Sheriff Pat Hedges for secretly taping an employee: We provided probing coverage of this ongoing investigation and will continue to do so.
-- Organ transplant: We offered authoritative coverage of this case in which a San Francisco transplant surgeon has been charged with trying to hasten a local man’s death to harvest his organs. The trial, which is being watched closely nationally, is set for this year.
Readers often say that we don’t write enough positive, uplifting stories. I can’t say how much is the right amount, but I can tell you that on any given day, we have quite a bit of positive news, whether it’s notice of an upcoming community event, coverage of an individual’s recent accomplishments, or profiles of individuals who have overcome great tragedy, contributed time and energy to help those less fortunate or simply worked valiantly under difficult circumstances.
We’re especially proud of our annual Unsung Hero series, which we launched three years ago during Thanksgiving Week on our Opinion Page. It seemed an appropriate time to pause and thank those local residents who are passionate about their causes but seek no payment, only the satisfaction they derive from helping others. This year, inundated with nominations of so many worthy Unsung Heroes, we profiled four more individuals last week in this space.
We’ve also championed several worthwhile causes this past year, such as the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, which provides food to more than 25,000 people. A June editorial and related news stories helped the coalition raise more than $115,000 in a mid-year fund drive, which has enabled the food bank to expand programs, including outreach efforts for seniors and young children.
Sometimes too our reporters put themselves in others’ shoes to understand issues better. Sarah Arnquist spent time chopping and boxing vegetables, hoeing weeds and moving pipes on a local farm last summer to better comprehend the effort required to put produce on supermarket shelves. It was a timely effort, given the nation’s debate over immigration, and we paired it with another staff-written article on the challenges that local employers face in hiring farm laborers.
Together these two stories on immigration received a national journalism award for the light they shed locally on one of the nation’s most pressing issues. This was just one of nearly two dozen state and national awards The Tribune staff won for their reporting, photography and page design in 2007.

Our accuracy record
As I mentioned earlier in this column, I said that we strive diligently to be as fair and balanced as is humanly possible. We try to measure that, and we do so by conducting accuracy surveys of people quoted in our news stories.
Since May 2004, we’ve sent out 434 accuracy surveys. Of the nearly 200 people who responded, 72 percent have deemed The Tribune’s reporting as “very accurate.”
The rest offered constructive criticism on how we could have improved our efforts.
The survey results are shared with the individual reporters involved, so that we can correct any errors and in general better understand our sources' expectations.
My goal with this weekly column is to make sure there that we are as open and transparent with you, the people we serve, so that you can help us improve. We strive to be all that you would expect from a news organization that seeks your trust. Your opinion matters to us.
As always, I am interested in what you think we’ve done well, where you believe we’ve fallen short – and your wish list for coverage in 2008. I’ll share your ideas with our news staff.
Write to me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA, 93406-0112, or e-mail me at
In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful news year.
_ Sandra Duerr

Friday, December 7, 2007

Reader likes coverage of cancer center closure

"Your reporters Sarah Arnquist and Stephan Curran have earned my respect in their investigative efforts concerning the Luxory house raffle by Mee Memorial. After reading the King City Rustler articles on the problems at Mee I am certain they are merely at the tip of the iceberg. I am anticipating new developments and am very proud to have this caliber of reporting available on a local level."
-- Craig Hayes

Thanks for the online feedback, Mr. Hayes. I too feel our teamwork on the Mee Memorial cancer center story this week has been terrific. Sarah and Stephen have clearly explained the complexities of the financial failures and captured the human reaction of Mee employees finding out, to their shock, that their jobs did not exist anymore.
_ Tad Weber

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hints from Heloise: where is it?

Christine Haubruge asks if we eliminated the Hints from Heloise column.
We did, temporarily, but it will be back Sunday in our Central Coast Living section. It will also run on Wednesdays in our Food and Wine section. We're still considering when and where to publish it on other days.
-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reader asks why we showed Paso girls mourning a classmate's death

The Tribune should not have taken a picture of the three Flamson Middle School students that is on the front page. You photographed them at a vulnerable moment as they mourned the loss of a classmate. That was wrong to do.
_ Anonymous reader

In Tuesday's paper we published a photo taken by staff photographer Jayson Mellom of three girls at Flamson Middle School grieving the tragic death of Ashlyn Vargas. She was a Flamson student who died in an all-terrain vehicle accident on Thanksgiving. A remembrance event was set up by school officials for students who wanted to mourn together, as well as leave messages for the family on a banner.
We had school permission to attend the session, which means the students knew they could be photographed. And Jayson acted as unobtrusively as possible. He stood quietly in a corner for nearly 15 minutes before he took the picture that we ran. "My goal was to be invisible and yet tell the story of the impact this girl had on the school."
Jayson did not seek out this assignment -- his editors directed him to cover the grieving. The room where the students gathered "was really jammed," Jayson said. "It was just horrible. All these kids were crying ... It was just sad."
Still, it was a legitimate news story to cover for the reason Jayson cited. Ashlyn's death was affecting her school community, and we wanted to communicate that information to readers.
I like to tell young journalists that news can be good, bad or ugly. Our job is to cover it fairly, accurately and sensitively, and Jayson did that well.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Will we bring late-night listings back?

Q. You have certainly been kept busy with all these changes and, as always, the paper in my opinion supplies just what is needed. I like having a full range of op-ed pieces too. I have a quick question on the Sunday TV Book. Why did the Golf Channel and Cinemax get left out?
-- Bob Leith, Paso Robles

A. Some readers had asked us to provide a less-cluttered look for the listings. So a few weeks ago we focused on the most-watched channels (Golf and Cinemax are not) and dropped 28 channels. We reinstated those channels Sunday to our prime-time listings, however, after several dozen readers complained.

Q. What happened to the late night listings (in the Sunday TV Book)? Certainly there must be enough night owls and insomniacs in the county to warrant continuing this section.
-- Ro Brooks

A. As you probably read in Publisher Chip Visci’s column in the TV Book Sunday, we are considering restoring the midnight to 6 a.m. listings by the end of December. To make space for them, we are looking at eliminating the Playing Field sports listings, which we list daily on Page 2 of the Sports section; eliminating the Best Bets page; and reducing the descriptions in the Movie Listings of two-star movies to the title, genre, actors and times. The fuller descriptions of three- and four-star movies would remain. We’d appreciate your opinion on this plan. Given the current economic downturn, we can’t add more pages to the weekly book because of newsprint costs. As Visci wrote, “Our core mission is providing space and staffing to cover local news, and while TV listings are important to some readers, it’s not our primary focus.”

-- Sandy Duerr

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reader offers thanks for Los Osos coverage

Q. I would like to thank The Tribune for its objective reporting on our issues (in Los Osos) over the last year or so. Knowing the influence your paper has on opinion, it has been very important that a balanced view was maintained, and that has surely happened. … We will never know for sure how much your articles and editorials contributed to getting people to vote, and thus to the success of the 218 vote (sewer issue). But we are very grateful that you have given and continue to give it your honest best views, which we feel contributed and will continue to contribute greatly.
-- Joyce Albright, Los Osos

A. On behalf of my colleagues, please accept our gratitude for taking the time to thank us. We appreciate such kind words.
_ Sandra Duerr

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday TV Book to get back channels in its listings

Q. Can you restore the channels you dropped last week in your Sunday TV Book? We don’t need the bigger type or the extra space for the channels you kept.
-- Several readers

A. Yes, we will restore them in two weeks, starting with the Nov. 25 TV Book. We have heard from about 80 faithful readers who expressed concern that we had dropped some of their favorite channels – such as Soap, Spike TV and Speed. We will not restore the TV logs during the early morning hours, however; very few people rely on them.
_ Sandra Duerr

Monday, November 5, 2007

When we show photos of graffiti vandalism

Q: I was disappointed to see that the Trib actually printed an easily read photo of the graffiti that appeared in Atascadero yesterday (Nov. 1). The entire reason for doing that crime is for public recognition and claiming a stake on a territory. You glorify the crime by showing a photo of it, especially a photo easily identifying the vandal’s tag.
_ Diana

The photo that Diana is concerned about actually did not get published in The Tribune, but appeared on But her question is still relevant: Why did we cover an act of vandalism with a photo?
To be sure, we generally avoid running pictures of vandalism for the reason she raises: The people who commit such crimes seek notoriety and publishing such photos only encourages them. There will be exceptions, however. In this case, we posted the photo because it showed one part of what was a fairly significant defacing at a public elementary school in Atascadero. Schools are regarded as safe havens in our society, so when that line is crossed by an act like vandalism, it is newsworthy. Our breaking news story about the vandalism also noted that other spray painting had occurred over a two-day stretch elsewhere in Atascadero, and involved a business and private property.
For most of Thursday, when the story first appeared on our Web site, viewers could only see the photo if they clicked on the breaking news headline about the vandalism. We did not make the photo a prominent part of our online report.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We go to court for your right to information

When my colleagues and I field readers’ phone calls or get their e-mails, many people suggest to us that it must be easy to get the news and information we print – that people simply give it to us.
If only it were that easy.
In fact, lots of people don’t want to talk to us, and people working for government agencies are sometimes the least helpful of all.
But the information that governments don’t want to give out is information that you’re entitled to. Which often prompts us to maneuver through a painstakingly difficult -- and expensive -- legal process to get you some of the most interesting stories we’ve reported.
Earlier this year, for example, we revealed how two local school districts had paid out more than $400,000 in settlements to parents of students with autism. The parents had asserted in lawsuits that inadequate services were being provided to their children.
We obtained that information by using the California Public Records Act, which allows the public to seek specific information from government.
We were compelled to use the act because officials for Lucia Mar Unified and San Luis Coastal would not simply release information about the settlements, citing concern over student confidentiality.
Ultimately, student names were redacted from the records given to us in response to our request. (To be fair, officials with San Luis Coastal were prompt in handling our request for information).
The total dollar settlement was important because one of the districts – the South County’s Lucia Mar -- was struggling with budget challenges. And both Lucia Mar and San Luis Coastal were accused of failing to meet the needs of students under their care.
As San Luis Obispo County’s only daily newspaper, we regularly file requests for information that we believe you have a right to know. Sometimes we don’t succeed. For instance, we sought the recording of the 9-1-1 emergency call recorded by the San Luis Obispo Police Department when the recent double murder-suicide occurred.
We wanted to know – and figured you would also want to know -- if there were details on that tape that might shed light on what happened and why. For example, did the dispatcher handle the call properly? Did the caller say anything that would help explain such a horrific crime?
The department denied our request, citing an exemption under the public records law that covers investigative materials. To date, there is no case law allowing public access to such emergency tapes, so we did not push the point.
But we did seek court relief in two other recent cases where we believed strongly that the public’s right to information was at risk.
Earlier this month we opposed Sheriff Pat Hedges’ request for a restraining order – colloquially called a gag order – that would bar anyone involved in the controversial bugging case from discussing it. Hedges is being accused of bugging an employee’s office and thereby violating that man’s civil rights.
The sheriff acknowledges that he bugged the office of a high-ranking officer to look into criminal allegations, charges he later determined to be unfounded.
The Tribune filed a motion to oppose Hedges’ request. Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet reaffirmed the public’s interest in an open process, ruling against the sheriff, saying his request represented “a textbook example of a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.”
Similarly, we joined the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press earlier this year to oppose a move by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office to have a gag order placed on participants in a case involving a San Francisco doctor. He is charged with two felonies related to a failed attempt to harvest a disabled man’s organs at a local hospital.
The prosecutor said that without a gag order in place for the pretrial phase, the “integrity” of the case would be at risk. Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman declined the prosecution’s request, saying pretrial publicity alone was not a sufficient reason to restrict the public’s access to information.
We take seriously our rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment, as does our parent company, The McClatchy Co. In its mission statement, McClatchy says: “The company’s newspapers and Web sites are steadfast defenders of First Amendment values and advocates for the communities they serve.”
It is in that spirit that we seek to uphold your right to know by being willing to spend the time and money to go to court, when necessary.
Charles Davis, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri, one of the nation’s foremost journalism schools, puts it this way:
“Freedom of information has come to be defined as a special interest of the press. In reality, it’s a fundamental democratic right.”
_ Tad Weber

Monday, October 22, 2007

A regrettable choice of words

Recently a columnist writing for The Tribune touched on the topic of wedding engagements that break off, and whether a woman should keep a diamond engagement ring or not. In the course of the column the columnist used the term "Indian giver." That elicited this response from reader Bailey Drechsler of San Luis Obipso:
"The irony, of course, in the expression 'Indian giver' is that it completely obfuscates our government’s culpability in breaking treaties with and the decimation of Indian Americans. This is why the expression is offensive and heart-breaking. It’s easy to disregard the potency of 'ethnic slurs' when they don’t carry personal relevance; and cultural sensitivity is often seen as political correctness. Clearly it’s far more complex. "
Features Editor Rochelle Reed replies:
" You are absolutely right--we should not have allowed this insensitive reference into print, and it won't appear again on our pages." The columnist, who is of Hawaiian heritage, especially regrets the choice of words, Rochelle added.
We seek to avoid offending anyone with our writing, so this was an unfortunate exception. We had already spoken to the columnist about the poor use of the term, and I am confident it won't happen again.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, October 18, 2007

When reader criticism is not helpful

Here is an e-mail I received from a reader today:

"After months of waiting for you to make constructive changes to your publication I am forced to express my opinion of the major changes that have been made to the Tribune.
"I have numerous opportunities to compare the Tribune with the Fresno Bee and the Sacramento Bee. It is hard to believe the three are all owned by the same parent company.
"I was a subscriber to the Fresno Bee for for about 35 years and have subscribed to the Tribune for 15 or 20 years.
"You have always been weak on Local, State, National and world news but since your recent major changes the paper is almost a total waste of time. News that is reported is cursory at best and when reported detail is so lacking the piece is almost all fluff ...
"Please look around and see what can be done with a paper if a professional is at the helm."

Let me emphasize that we welcome legitimate criticism of what we do and produce. But to be helpful, criticism needs to be specific. Tell us exactly what we did not do right, or how you think the paper can be made better.
To compare us to Fresno, Sacramento or any other paper in a metro market is to miss the point. As they have bigger markets to serve with more advertisers than we have here, they can produce more pages every day. That means more state, nation, world and even local news. We will never equal them in terms of volume of news.

Now, as to the reader's point that our recent changes have meant less news in The Tribune, that simply is untrue. The fact is, the recent changes we made did not significantly decrease any amount of news that we publish, save for some features material. In other words, what we cut back on was the “fluff” the reader says we have too much of. We are printing the same amount of local, state and nation/world that we always have.

As I was writing this blog, I got a phone call from a reader who asked, in upset voice, why we had not covered an event he found important. It occurred in San Francisco last Sunday and involved two gay men who, the reader said, had desecrated the inside of a Catholic church with homosexual behavior. I tried to explain that I first had to look at our wire services to see if such a news item had moved. We do not cover news outside our county firsthand because our staff is not big enough to do that. Unhappy with my response, he yelled, "Forget it. You are a ----ing village idiot."

Sheesh. Obviously, that level of discourse is not going to work.

So, readers, when you are specific in your criticism and civil too, it really helps. We can then address the problems you raise.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, October 15, 2007

New on our Web: Daily crime map for Paso Robles

If you have ever wondered where thefts, burglaries and other crimes are occurring in Paso Robles, you now have a way to find out:
Just log onto, scroll down on the right side of the page and click on Crime Maps. That will take you to a map that highlights all incidents reported to the city of Paso Robles every day.
It’s the second city where our work with the local police department has yielded this benefit. We launched a similar crime map for the city of San Luis Obispo a few months ago. Both police department chiefs – Deborah Linden of SLO and Lisa Solomon of Paso Robles – also will be making sure their department offers regular tips to residents on this same site.
While we will continue to publish stories of the most serious crimes in these two cities, the online maps will give you far more detailed information on your communities than we have space for in the daily Tribune.
Please keep in mind that calls to the police for service sometimes don’t reflect the nature of an incident. A burglary may be reported, for example, but it could turn out to be false. We’ve also excluded exact addresses for incidents involving allegations of rape, sexual assaults, spousal abuse and child abuse.
The maps are typically updated every 24 hours at about 9 a.m. daily, according to Tribune Web developer Danny Thorogood, who created the maps and has worked with the police departments on this project.
The incidents are mapped to individual streets, and will list homicides, sexual assaults, narcotics, assault, animal problems, traffic problems, burglaries, graffiti and other crimes.
We’re working with the city of Atascadero and hope to have its reports within a few weeks. Tribune Web producer Larissa Van Beurden-Doust also is continuing to work with the other police departments in the county to get them on board as well.
Police chiefs Solomon and Linden deserve a great deal of credit for making these public records available to the wider public. An informed citizenry can help police prevent crime and apprehend criminals.
_ Sandra Duerr

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Readers say "maimed veterans'' was insensitive

Two readers have contacted me upset about how we referenced veterans in a headline on a local story we wrote Sept. 26. The story focused on veterans, many injured in the Iraqi war, who were learning to deal with their injuries, embrace life and learn to surf on the Central Coat. The headline read, “Maimed veterans rehab and play in Pismo surf.’’ A secondary headline said “Troops returning from Iraq with amputations or severe burns hit the water with a purpose.’’

Julie Dratwa of Arroyo Grande advised us to look up the word in the dictionary. “Though these boys came back from the war with injuries, they've come back stronger than most of the men and women I meet on the street … not one of them are defective or imperfect! They are heroic!”
Both readers believe we owe the veterans an apology.

The copy editor who wrote that headline chose it to describe the injuries that the veterans sustained in war. He noted that the official dictionary we use, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, defines maimed as an injury causing the loss or crippling of some necessary part of the body. No ill will – or slight to the troops -- was intended, according to News Editor Andy Castagnola. Rather, we covered this story, as we did far more extensively last year, to share with our readers these veterans’ spirit and drive to overcome their injuries and to continue to live purposeful lives. Our story itself discussed the troops’ decision to live and defy the odds, quoting at least one person as saying that he is learning to adapt and reuse his right arm after it was almost lost in an explosion. To be sure, the copy editor could have opted to say “injured veterans’’ instead. It’s less harsh. But then, war is harsh. And that’s the only message our copy editor was trying to get across. We apologize if any one interpreted this differently.

-- Sandra Duerr

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

When we publish Letters to the Editor online

Will Power of Arroyo Grande suggested that it would help readers if we could clearly explain our policy of featuring only certain letters in the widely read print edition of your paper while relegating other letters to the much less read "online" version. "Perhaps The Tribune feels that some opinions need more exposure than others,'' he wrote me.

Here's my answer:
When we publish letters online, it’s typically because they’re in response to stories that only appeared online or because we’ve had an overflow of letters on a specific subject and they’re time sensitive. We have not done it often. “For example, we did that at election time and from time to time, have done it with the Los Osos sewer issue,’’ said Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane.
In addition, when we receive an extremely long local Viewpoint, she said, “we sometimes give the author the option of running an abbreviated version in the daily, and running the full version online.’’ In all of these cases, we include a refer on the Opinion and Voices pages directing readers to our online site.
For the record, the Opinion and Letters sections on our Web site are consistently among our most popular, according to Online Editor Sally Buffalo. They received more than 20,000 page views during September, she said, adding that “between 9,000 and 14,000 people a day come to, some returning several times throughout the day. And we’ve seen that number grow in the past few months.”

-- Sandy Duerr

Monday, October 1, 2007

This Vietnam veteran did not like our recent label headline

Harry Galloway, a reader in Atascadero, called to complain about a headline over a Local section story we published last Wednesday. The headline said: "Police chase, shooting has Morro Bay connection." The subhead read: "Fresno officers return fire on fleeing gunman believed headed here to home of a fearful wife." And the overline said: "Vietnam Veteran." It was that last part that drew Galloway's criticism, for he is a Vietnam veteran.
"To me it is so disrespectful because in the public's mind it puts us all in the same category," he said.
I can understand his sensitivities, and see his point. But in this case, the police made the strong link to this man's Vietnam experience as a way to explain why he was acting in such a threatening way now. That past was relevant to the present, according to the police.
Also, in the course of our coverage every year, we write about positive things veterans are doing to better our community, including those who have served in Vietnam. In this way, we show readers that Vietnam veterans do more than act out negative behaviors spawned from their service years.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why we fact-check Letters to the Editors

Several readers have asked us recently: Why do I have to tell you my source of information in my Letter to the Editor? Isn’t this the place in the newspaper where I can simply give you my opinion?

So let me try to answer:
We review all local Letters to the Editor and Viewpoints to ensure that the facts cited are accurate and allegations made are provable. If the commentary can’t pass these tests, we don’t publish them. “We first attempt to verify factual information by checking our own story files, the Internet and other sources. If we are unable to confirm the information — or we find conflicting data — we often ask letter writers to provide their sources,’’ said Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane.
Besides fact-checking, Letters Editor Heather Smith edits letters for grammar, clarity, length and taste. As Finucane has written before, we reject some letters “because they’re too long; contain libelous or obscene statements; are illegible; or the writer neglected to include the necessary contact information of a full name, address and a phone number where he or she can be reached during business hours.” Furthermore, we try avoiding letters that praise or criticize a particular business.
Smith says that when she explains our policy to letter writers, many thank her for checking the facts, saying “they are happy to know The Tribune does this.’’ To give you a sense of the amount of fact-checking we do, consider this: Of the six to eight letters that we publish daily, only two typically don’t require fact-checking because they’re “thank-you’’ type letters. Looked at another way, we fact check 28 to 36 letters a week, Smith says.

Any other questions about our Opinion Page policies -- or news policies?
If yes, simply email me at, and I'll reply.

-- Sandy Duerr

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why we published what one reader called a "disgusting anti-American'' editorial cartoon

Q. It was a disgraceful act of The Tribune to allow a disgusting anti-American propaganda piece, such as the cartoon by Gary Markstein, to be posted among the Letters to the Editor on Sept. 12. This was an obvious and vicious attempt to portray General David Petraeus as a liar. Shame on The Tribune.
-- R. Dunbar Salin, Avila Beach

Q. I’m just appalled or really curious as to why you would stoop so low with today’s cartoon that portrays General Petraeus as such a buffoon … I watched General Petraeus on Brit Hume and I was never so impressed … I’m sure there were many cartoons you could have chosen from. I’m sure you could have found something more positive. Do you people just not understand war? Quit playing to the extremist left of people who want this country to go down the tube.
-- Melinda Rice

A. When Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane selected this particular cartoon, she had three to choose from on the subject that were available for us to publish. All were critical of Army Gen. David Petraeus’ report. One was visually cluttered and difficult to understand, and in a second one, Patraeus was seated at a table draped to look like a coffin, which Finucane found to be off-topic and in poor taste. Since then, another cartoon arrived with the headline, “Once upon a time.” In summary, we did not have cartoons available to us that portrayed a different point of view on this topic. But because the general’s report was the main news of the day, we wanted to offer a commentary on it, and the cartoon we selected was one form.
We select editorial cartoons on all subjects to offer readers another source of commentary, along with political columns, editorials and local Letters to the Editor. They are all part of the mix on our Opinion Page to offer diverse points of view – conservative, liberal, middle-of-the-road. “We encourage readers to judge the Opinion Page on all of this content, not solely on our editorial cartoons,’’ Finucane said. “On this particular day, for example, in addition to the cartoon we ran a column from Cal Thomas headlined, ‘Accept nothing short of victory in Iraq.’”
For the record, all sitting presidents, Republican or Democrat, are a favorite target of cartoonists, who set out to create provocative cartoons to stir up debate.

-- Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Love politics? Check out our new Election '08 link

If you are a political junkie, make sure to see the Election '08 link on our home page. You will find it in the right column, or rail, of Web online extras. This link will take you to our election page where we group local coverage with state and national campaign news. Currently, we have mostly national news, as that is where most of the action is occurring. But there are a half dozen stories filed by Tribune staff writers, including news on recent fundraisers and the political impact expected from the controversial viewshed decision made by the county Board of Supervisors. And once local campaigns get more in gear next year, we will load up the coverage.
One other feature I want to point out: The Hot Off the Trail blog. It is written by veteran reporters based in the Washington, D.C. bureau of McClatchy Co., our corporate owner. In 2004 I had the chance to work for a month as deputy political editor in the bureau as the fall presidential campaign moved to the final dash to Election Day. So I got to know several of the reporters, including Steven Thomma, who has wide experience and deep knowledge of presidential politics. You can read his posts in the Hot Off the Trail blog.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, September 10, 2007

No, we haven't gone to "soft'' news!

Q. I know you have been experimenting with The Tribune. My wife and I have been subscribers forever. Recently we have been disappointed with the lifestyle/soft direction of the Tribune. But today's – Aug. 5 -- paper was wonderful with great local, state, national and international coverage. Use today's paper as a benchmark for future efforts. This is what a paper should look like.
-- Steve and Nancy Willison

A. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your views. It is our intent to do what we did Aug. 5 every day -- offer strong news coverage from our county as well as top state, national and world news. When we launched the newspaper changes in August, however, it was the middle of the California Mid-State Fair, which draws thousands of people daily, and a time when there wasn’t much major news occurring countywide. That’s often the case in August. So in addition to stories from the fair (both news and feature stories), we showcased our staff’s kayaking trip along the county’s coastline. Taken together, it appears that these stories gave readers the impression that we had gone “soft.’’ We have not.

Q. There seems to be less national and world news in the newspaper since you launched your new format. We need at least the same level of coverage that we had before.
-- A few subscribers

A. We have not changed the amount of national and world coverage that we offer. We strive to select stories from our wire services that add depth, texture and analysis to the news summaries found online or heard over the airwaves. Our goal is to add to what many people have already read online or heard on radio and TV, not merely repeat it. However, we are providing far less national entertainment and celebrity coverage than we used to; there’s plenty of news like that on TV and elsewhere, and I suspect you probably would applaud that decision!

-- Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crime, Zac Efron and prep sports ... get the latest on

The show of sound and light that kept so many of us awake early Thursday crackled on our Web site a few hours later – with photos from our own photographers as well as those submitted by readers countywide and a story on why the freak summer storm occurred.
By noon, our photo gallery boasted about 30 images as well as a video. By evening, we had two videos.
This is a great example of how online is allowing us to interact with you in ways never available before – and, at the same time, give you access to more information, quickly.
Our reporters routinely write stories first for, and offer deeper stories with more context for the next day’s Tribune. In the case of the summer storm, Tribune readers received a full report in Friday’s edition, including four dramatic photos.
Beyond reacting immediately to county news events, our online staff led by Online Editor Sally Buffalo has launched or improved several other parts of our Web site recently so that we’re more useful to readers. Here’s a closer look:
Crime map: You can now view all incidents reported to the San Luis Obispo Police Department each day on a map – in a certain neighborhood or on a certain street, for example -- and search based on type of crime and date. We are working to obtain similar information from the county’s other police departments. Check it out at We will continue to cover the major crimes in our daily police blotter in The Tribune, but this gives you access to all incidents reported to SLO police daily.
Prep sports: You can get schedules, rosters and statistics of your favorite local prep football teams. We eventually plan to expand this to other sports. Our link:
Zac Efron: Want to keep track of our national teen idol from Arroyo Grande? Check out our special coverage and link to blogs and noteworthy articles about him. We’ve also included Efron photos e-mailed to us by readers. Our link:
Explore SLO County: If you’re hosting visitors, trying to pick out a restaurant or find out where to hike, head to this section of our site. In addition to the 200 local restaurant reviews, complete winery listings, wine itineraries, hotel listings and outdoor activities, you can now find a wealth of information to advise out-of-town guests how to get here and get around (airports, trains, renting cars and parking). We’ve also added a guide for those interested in getting married here, along with new videos and slideshows, including one on tasting wine. Our link:
Latest movie, TV show information: We wrap up all the new movies, TV shows, DVDs, music and more and update it every Friday. You can also find movie trailers for new releases on our entertainment page, And for entertainment junkies, we offer audio clips each week related to the world of entertainment.

-- Sandy Duerr

Friday, August 24, 2007

Readers comment on our recent changes to The Tribune

Q: I hate the new format. I think you have sacrificed the quality of the local news issues by reducing the number of pages and combining the local section with the business section ….
_ Zeke

You have done a good job managing the paper, but with your new format, I am disappointed. There seems to be so much less national and world news. Can’t you bring back what you have cut?
_ From several readers

A: Contrary to perceptions, we have not reduced the amount of space devoted to Local, Business or Nation/World news, with one exception, which is Monday’s edition when Local news runs in the main A section. Most U.S. newspapers have small editions on Mondays and we felt we could cut back on space that day to realize some savings in newsprint.
It is true that Business is no longer a section front Tuesday through Saturday. Business news used to be the front of a section that was combined with Features. When we created the new Central Coast Living features tab, Business had to go into an existing section, and Local was the best fit. But the space allocated to Business news remains unchanged.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Where is news of the big earthquake in Peru?

Where in today's paper is news about the huge earthquake in Peru? Talk about ethnocentricity! If the U.S. had a 7.5 earthquake I'm sure you would write about it.
_ Ruth Alcala

Good question, Ruth. As of deadline, the only story that had moved on our wire services said 15 people had been killed. We have a story today on Page A3 reflecting that, but it is a small story, and could have been easily missed. We were at the mercy of our wire services, and could not really get more than what we published. We will have fuller coverage in tomorrow's edition.
Rest assured, we understand the significance of this earthquake. No ethnocentricity being applied.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reader comment on our kayak series

FIVE days of FRONT page coverage of an "adventure" your staff members have??? PLUS an editorial telling us how great it is. Enough. What is next? An exclusive three parter on your editor's daughter's wedding? A four part series on the copy boy's hernia operation? If this is a preview of your "NEW" look, go back!!! By the way, when will you be covering MY summer vacation? Ridiculous!!
_ John Carroll

Mr. Carroll: I am sorry you are not enjoying the kayak series. It will conclude on Thursday. We believe that there are many in our readership who are interested in the topic and the adventure our reporter and photographer experienced. As a reader of The Tribune, you understand that we rarely tell first-person accounts. But we did so in this case because the topic is near and dear to many of our readers, who have consistently told us that the county coastline is one of the things they value most about living here.
P.S. A reporter-photographer team for the San Francisco Chronicle told that paper’s readers of a kayaking experience they undertook on the Northern California coastline, and in recent years a Fresno Bee team hiked the John Muir Trail in the Sierra and related that adventure. I wish our project was unique, but actually it is not.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, August 13, 2007

SLO crime map debuts on our Web site

I commend to your Web viewing a new feature on Our crime map for the city of San Luis Obispo.
What is the crime map?
It is a daily listing of the calls that officers responded to in the previous day, shown as points on a map of the city. The information is shown three ways -- on the basic city map, on a satellite image of the city, and as a hybrid, which puts the map onto the satellite image.
Each call is shown as a pin on the map, and each is color-coded based on the call. For example, vandalism calls are purple.
When you click on a particular pin, a window pops open to give the address and the time of the call. There is also a master list under the map of all the calls. Today's map and list contain nearly 30 calls from Sunday.
We think this kind of useful feature will be valuable to our Web viewers who are eager to find out what kind of crime may occur near their home. Those of you who live in other cities of our county will wonder when we will have a map for your hometown. The short answer is we are in the process of working with the other cities on their crime maps; there are some software issues that must be solved.
Drop me a comment here to let me know what you think about this feature. Or you can e-mail Online Editor Sally Buffalo at
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Covering Hollywood scandals

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that nine in 10 Americans think scandals involving celebrities receive too much media coverage. Only 2 percent of the respondents think the scandals get too little attention. Eight percent said current coverage is about right.
Of those who think coverage of celebrities behaving badly is overdone, 54 percent of them blamed the media.
We strive to keep celebrity coverage in its proper place. On the one hand, many readers love to find out the latest gossip about their favorite stars. But there is an equally large number of readers who think such news has no place in our paper. To provide Hollywood news without going overboard, we anchor such items on Page 2 of our main news section under the Espresso heading. That is where we ran the recent news of Paris Hilton's jail experience, for example.
Some readers have asked why celebrity news has to be on Page 2 and not farther back in the paper. The answer is that often such news breaks late, so we cannot push it deeper into the issue. We need to put it on one of the pages that we can move late in the evening.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Caller criticizes our coverage of Iraq war

Our City Desk editors took a call yesterday from a reader in Cambria who was critical of our coverage of the war in Iraq. Specifically, she said we had a pro-war bias, and she pointed to a story we published Tuesday in the Local section as an example. The story profiled the wife of a National Guard commander who was recently deployed to Kuwait. The wife shared how she are her two young daughters are dealing with her husband's yearlong deployment.
The caller said the story reflected favorable coverage we have given to the war effort, and she said we have not done enough to publicize critical views.
Here is my response to our caller: Throughout the course of the war, we have used our wire services (McClatchy Tribune, AP, New York Times among them) to report events in Iraq and Washington, D.C., with both sides of the politics being well covered. Locally, we have reported on efforts by county residents to help the troops, as well as anti-war vigils and marches. In short, we have carefully sought to ensure balance in our coverage since the war. And I think we have done a good job. I am interested in others' thoughts on this.
_ Tad Weber

Friday, July 20, 2007

When we identify suspects arrested for misdemeanors

Q: I see a Police Blotter item today about three men who were arrested near Pirate's Cove on sex and indecent exposure charges. Why were they not named?
_ Anonymous

A: The allegations for the suspects you read about relate to misdemeanor crimes. As a rule, we don't identify people arrested on suspicion of misdemeanors because we do not follow such cases to their conclusion in the courts. There are so misdemeanor arrests that we simply do not have the staff time to follow each case. If we named each person arrested on that level of crime, out of fairness we would need to report the case's outcome.
That said, sometimes new information comes to light that makes a misdemeanor more newsworthy, and leads us to identify a suspect.
In fact, we have this morning found out new information about one of the men who was arrested on Thursday, and we will be posting a news update on shortly.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reader did not like our photo of President Bush

Q: I thought your picture of President Bush in the paper Tuesday [on Page A3] was unnecessarily grim. If you had a picture of Sen. Harry Reid [the Senate's Democratic leader], would you have used one as grim as that?
_ Mary Nelson, San Luis Obispo
A: The photo Mrs. Nelson refers to went with a story about the president seeking support for a Middle East peace conference. It was a serious topic, and the president definitely looks serious. I differ from Mrs. Nelson in that I did not view him as grim, but such can be the subjective nature of looking at pictures.
In general, we try to match our photos appropriately for the event being written about. We rely on our wire services -- McClatchy Tribune, Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times being the main ones -- for our national and world coverage. While most of those services will move stories on key events, often AP is the only one taking photos. In this case, we published an AP image.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why the big type for the Michael Vick story

Goodness gracious, Sandy, has your computer gone haywire or is your sports editor that anxious to fill his front page. The Michael Vick dog story is worthy of comment, but not with headlines of the size usually reserved for a declaration of war.
_ Carroll McKibbin

Executive Editor Sandy Duerr passed this my way, Carroll. First, I'm glad to see the headline caught your eye -- in that sense, it worked, as a key aim we have is to get a reader's attention.
But more to your point that the design overplayed the story: Surveys of sports fans consistently show that the NFL is the most popular sport by far in America today. Within the game itself, Michael Vick is a superstar and franchise player for the Atlanta Falcons. So for him to be indicted on allegations of conducting dog fighting is big news. Also, the NFL this year has raised the bar for conduct of its players. Criminal behavior is not being tolerated under the lead of the NFL's new commissioner. So the story gains an extra bit of newsworthiness for that reason. Fans will be watching closely to see how the league reacts to this case.
Finally, this point of the summer is a slow time for sports. Baseball is continuing, but not much else is going on. This story is helping fill sports sections across the nation today, and it was a big story for most newspapers.
Should war be imminent, as was the case when our troops entered Iraq, you can be certain we will announce that news in big type. On the front page. This story was on the sports front, where the rules can be more relaxed.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Headline questioned by a couple of readers

Mr. Tad Weber: As residents of Los Osos, hoping for a successful 218 assessment vote [re: a sewer project for the town], we were instantly put off by the Tribune's choice of words for the headline: "Osos sewer vote aims for fall," Page B1 of the LOCAL section, July 16. The six words arranged in this manner suggest either a deliberate prediction of failure for the vote we are all anticipating, or simply a failed attempt at the composition of an unbiased headline ..."
_ Stephani and Stuart Denker

Dear Denkers: Thank you very much for taking the time to write to express your disappointment with our headline. I can assure you, we did not try to infer any failure on part of the assessment vote. We are simply trying to say the mail balloting will occur largely in the fall season. Headline writing is a discipline requiring a lot of information to be conveyed in a few words.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, July 16, 2007

Explaining our recent pot-bust coverage

Q: Regarding your story last Wednesday about the big marijuana bust, why did you take it so lightly as to put it on your Local section and not the front page? … It is surprising to me that such a serious problem is not taken seriously by The Tribune.
_ Anonymous caller

A: The marijuana bust story was given prominent display as our lead story on the Local section front. Over the past several years that is where we have put stories about busts of marijuana-growing operations. Being a rural county, illegal growing operations are not uncommon here.
We take seriously our coverage of the drug problems in our region. That is why we devoted six months of reporting and editing time to produce the four-day series that was published in March called “In Meth’s Grip.” It offered in-depth coverage of the methamphetamine problem in San Luis Obispo County.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trying out new comics

A caller this morning registered a complaint about changes we have made to our comics lineup. We've stopped publishing several longtime strips, such as "B.C." and "Wizard of ID" and have launched several news ones in a pilot project to test them out.
The caller wondered why we were making the changes. The key reason is that we want to refresh our lineup to offer readers the best strips that currently exist. The creators of "B.C." and "Wizard of ID" recently died, and there won't be any new strips. Charles Schultz, the creator of "Peanuts," died several years ago, but we continue to run already published "Peanuts" because of its broad-based appeal. Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy and even Snoopy remain icons that surpass any other newspaper comic.
To let us know your reaction to all of our test comics, e-mail or write to Ticket Editor Justin Hoeger c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. We expect to conclude our test phase later this month and make final choices, taking into account the feedback we get from readers.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, July 9, 2007

How to get your letter published in The Tribune

You might be a reader who enjoys the community debate in our daily letters to the editor. But you don't know how to get published in that section.
Here is some advice, courtesy of Opinion Page Editor Stephanie Finucane:

Q: How do I submit a letter?
A: E-mailed letters are preferred. Send them to
Q: I don’t have e-mail. Can I still submit a letter?
A: Of course! It can be mailed to The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406; or faxed to 781-7905. Typed letters are preferred. Mailed letters require more processing than e-mailed letters, so it typically takes longer for those to appear in the paper. If you mail a letter, be sure to include your contact information — name, address and phone number — on the letter itself, not just on the envelope.
Q: I’m ready to write. What are your requirements?
A: Letters should be limited to 200 words, and if you can say it in 100, so much the better. Follow conventional capitalization and punctuation rules, and avoid using multiple exclamation marks or capital letters to emphasize a point. If you are referencing a previous letter or article, please include the date that it appeared in the paper. Avoid using acronyms; rather than using LOCSD, for example, say Los Osos Community Services District. After that first reference, you can simply refer to it as the district. If you are citing factual information from another source, please include a reference, such as a Web site or a book title.
If you want to read more of Stephanie's Q and A, see Page B4 in today's Tribune, or click this link:
_ Tad Weber

Friday, July 6, 2007

A strong mix of news in Sunday's issue

A quick post today to highlight what we have coming in Sunday's edition:
First, staff writer Ermina Karim and senior designer Beth Anderson have produced the annual Tribune Top 20 -- our yearly look at the top firms doing business in SLO County. If you want to get a good understanding about the key firms moving our local economy, this is a must-read. Ermina gathered the information and Beth updated our Top 20 graphic that lists key facts about each firm.
On the lighter side of news, our Central Coast Living section leads with a feature by staff writer Pat Pemberton about locals who love playing Frisbee golf and a game known as Ultimate Frisbee. The CCL back page has another story by Pat, this one about a Cal Poly grad who specializes in aerial fabric dancing. Find out more about that and how she practices on Bishop Peak.
Finally, staff writer Sona Patel will have a front-page story about Franco DeCicco, who wants to build a commercial development in Cayucos and has faced strong opposition from residents of the town. Find out why he is now scaling the project down.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Refreshing our comics lineup

Are you changing your comics for financial reasons? Why are you still publishing Peanuts since its creator, Charles Schulz, died and you’re considering dropping B.C. and Wizard of Id for that very reason?
_ Anonymous reader
You had asked readers to rate the new comics. I wrote and said F-Minus deserved that grade. I wonder how it fared with all other responders. How did the other new comics fare?
_ Richard Tibben, Nipomo

No, we're not changing our comics to save money or space, but rather to refresh our lineup to offer readers the best strips that currently exist, given the deaths of several creators. We aren't currently planning to drop "Peanuts" because of its broad-based appeal. We are now in the third phase of our comics test, said Justin Hoeger, Ticket editor. We expect to consider all the reaction we've received from readers - so far nearly 500- and make a final decision on all the strips by the end of this month. In the meantime, loyal "Rex Morgan, M.D." fans will notice that we've restored his strip, and all those who told us that "F-Minus" deserved that grade will be delighted that it’s biting the dust. To let us know your reaction to all of our test comics, e-mail, or write Hoeger c/o The Tribune at P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, 93401.
_ Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why we want you to now register to post a comment

Regular users of our site, especially those who post comments on our stories, have likely noticed that we are asking you now to register yourself to continue being able to comment.
There are several reasons we are taking this step, but here is a key one.
Online Editor Sally Buffalo notes that we have seen a big jump in comments since we started adding the comment feature to every story we put up on "While we appreciate and value opening up our pages to your voices, the job of policing comments for profanity, racism, sexism and libel became overwhelming," Sally says.
"We hope that by asking people to register as site users, we will cut down on those comment spammers and improve the quality of the conversation for all involved."
It should go without saying that the discourse in our comments should be respectful. It hasn't always been so, unfortunately.
There is another reason we are asking you to register: We want to know more about you. That is not unusual. Newspaper companies have long asked subscribers for demographic information. We are just applying that function now to online users.
Once a viewer hits 200 page views, you will be asked to register. If you choose not to, you will not be able to access our stories (though classified content still will be available) or add comments to any stories.
Additionally, you will not receive our morning or afternoon e-mail newsletters that highlight key stories we have on
Take a moment to register -- you only need to do it once -- and happy reading and commenting.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, July 2, 2007

Why we're writing about the family who had quadruplets

Q. How did you hear about the family expecting quadruplets, and why did you decide to write about it?

A. We learned of the family through a work friend of Carmen Leyva. We wanted to write about their experience, partly because multiple births are becoming increasingly common as more couples turn to fertility treatments to conceive. In the words of reporter Annmarie Cornejo,
“The high risk nature of such pregnancies adds a unique element to the process. Families walk a fine line between joy and the fear of all the ‘what ifs.’ How does a family prepare to double in size in less than one year? Emotionally cope to the adjustment? Financially cope? It is difficult enough in the county to find child care for one child – but finding it for three is another story.”
In addition, because multiple births are typically premature, telling this family’s story gives us a chance to chronicle the experiences of families with premature babies. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has the only neonatal intensive care unit from Salinas to Santa Barbara.
Looking ahead, it is our hope to share Carmen and Isaac Leyva’s journey through their triumphs and tribulations, Cornejo said. “We’ll try to celebrate ‘firsts’ with them,’’ she said, “such as the first day home from the hospital, their first birthdays, their first steps and words – and maybe, their first day of school.

-- Sandy Duerr

Friday, June 29, 2007

Check out our blogs from Baghdad and Jerusalem

Our Washington bureau has launched a new national and international news Web site to showcase special reporting from our reporters in the bureau, as well as throughout McClatchy newspapers nationwide. Also being added are four new reporters’ blogs -- Dion Nissenbaum in Jerusalem, Leila Fadel in Baghdad, Shashank Bengali in Africa and Hannah Allam in Cairo. That's in addition to the existing blogs from Tim Johnson in Beijing and our Iraqi staff in Baghdad. As our Washington editor David Westphal has said, “Our correspondents are doing a nice job of bringing alive the faraway places that have become so important to us at home.’’ I encourage you to check them out:
-- Sandy Duerr

Monday, June 25, 2007

Do we stage photos? Generally no.

At least once a week, our photographers are asked questions like these: Can you make me look 10 pounds lighter? Can you erase my wrinkles? Can I pretend to be doing something while you’re taking my photo?
In other words, would we please “stage” their picture?
The answer: Generally no.
Our photographers deftly try to handle such questions weekly from people who are eager to please.
“They typically ask me something along the lines of ‘What would you like me to do?’ or ‘I can pretend to be doing such and such,’’’ said Joe Johnston, who has worked at The Tribune for seven years.
“My response is always, ‘Just do what you were going to do and pretend I’m not here,’’’ he said. “We are not movie directors,’’ he added. “We document what people actually do.”
To be sure, there are occasions when we set up a photo – whether it’s a business executive in her office or food for Dining Out reviews or fitness experts demonstrating various exercise routines for our weekly Get Fit story.
“But it is clear in these images that the subject is aware of the camera, and readers are sophisticated enough to understand that this is not a found moment,’’ said David Middlecamp, who has been a Tribune photographer for 21 years. “Lights may have been set up,’’ he said, “or I may ask for the subject to sit in a chair that does not have a loading dock behind it.” Tribune photojournalists adhere to the code of ethics established by the National Press Photographers Association, which says they “have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record.”
Clearly, electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photos. Yet “accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession,’’ the association says. “We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content ... is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.” To give you a better understanding of how ethical judgment guides our photography, consider these recent examples:

Snakes on the Plains (pls use female snake picture)
When Johnston met with a Cal Poly biologist conducting research on rattlers at Carissa Plains, she was seeking a female rattlesnake to surgically implant devices that would allow her to locate the snake and track its body temperature over time.
She wasn’t seeking male snakes because she had already tagged enough of them to observe their natural behavior. But if she couldn’t find a female snake, she offered to grab a male snake so that Johnston could photograph her holding a snake.
“I told her to just do what they would normally do,’’ Johnston said. “Fortunately, we found a snake hidden under a rock and they had to grab it and bring it out in order to identify it as male or female and I was able to get a photo of them handling a snake.
“And as luck would have it, we later found a female and I was also able to get additional photos of them handling that snake as well.
“However, if on that day we did not find the female or did not need to handle a snake at all, then my photos would have had to reflect that. I would have just gotten photos of a male snake on the ground undisturbed with the researchers observing it.”

In Meth’s Grip
Often we have to invest time to allow the person we’re photographing to relax and just be themselves, Middlecamp said. “Ordinary moments are far more telling than anything I could imagine.’’
As the photographer who worked on our four-part series on local methamphetamine use, Middlecamp said it was impossible to get all the images he needed in one visit. For example, he spent about 25 hours over six months with a woman recovering from meth addiction to show how she was trying to rebuild her shattered life.
“The routines in her life changed from week to week as she was able to find a job, buy a car and move to a new apartment. The reporter and I had to spend enough time with her to find real moments, but not smother her efforts at recovery,” Middlecamp recalled.
“The more you learn about your subject, when they laugh, what makes them stop and think, the better your images can be.”
None of the images he took during his first meeting with the woman were published. He obtained a leading front-page photo on his last visit.
Should we hide the clutter?
A reader recently complained that photography in our weekly Home section – which takes readers inside local homes and gardens -- didn’t portray local houses to best advantage and suggested that we “stage’’ more photos.
Here’s how Rochelle Reed, features editor of The Tribune, responded:
“Staging is a term used when a home is accessorized in order to sell it. ‘Styling’ is the term that interior-decorating magazines and now television shows use when they temporarily supplement or completely replace a homeowner’s furnishings and accessories with more fashionable items.
“During the decade that I styled homes for decorating magazines, I straightened shelves, hid televisions, replaced dead plants and frequently brought in entirely new furniture. After a time, I realized how unfair we were to readers, who imagined that other homeowners lived in perfect environs totally without clutter. So in Home, we show homes just as they are, often well-lived or … maintained in pristine formality.
“What you see is what really exists.’’

-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tech column: Yes, we'll keep publishing one!

Several people have written or called to ask that we try persuading tech columnist Jim Coates from retiring … but if that’s not possible, to please find a good replacement. Indeed, we too are dismayed that the Chicago Tribune columnist is moving on to other adventures in life. But rest assured, there are about four similar Q&A tech columns that we receive through our wire services, so we will be selecting the best one each week. If we find that one particular columnist is head and shoulders above the rest, we’ll stick with that one! We appreciate hearing from all of you!
-- Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can you make a perfect road CD?

Can you make a perfect road CD?
Tribune features copy editor Jay Thompson told features reporter Pat Pemberton it was impossible. Pemberton thought otherwise so he offered to make one for Thompson ... then Thompson offered to make Pemberton a surf compilation. Then they both blogged about it.
Check out what they had to say ... and the mix of songs they chose. Then, decide for yourself.
Personally, I think it's great, and it's fun to read.
Here's the link:

-- Sandy Duerr

Monday, June 18, 2007

Get Tribune headlines through your cell phones!

For those who want to access Tribune headlines through their cells phones, I'm pleased to report that you can now do so!
The Tribune’s headlines are prominently featured on the cell phones of all local Verizon customers, who are able to read the top three paragraphs of those stories, according to Tribune Online Editor Sally Buffalo.
“When users launch the web browser on their cell phone, one of the options on the first screen will be Local, which will then give the following options: breaking news, local, business, sports, weather, movie show times.
McClatchy, which owns The Tribune, is trying to line up similar arrangements with other major cell phone providers, though all phones can access the information at”
-- Sandy Duerr

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Females are not ornamental objects"!

A couple readers have commented online that we are only showing photos of female graduates in The Tribune, adding: “Note to Editors, females are not ornamental objects. Thanks.’’
After reading this, I did a quick survey. The readers are correct; we have portrayed female high school and college graduates more often than men. But it’s a huge leap to conclude that we’re treating women as “ornamental objects.’’ I believe these photos, along with all of our stories on outstanding graduates who have excelled or overcome obstacles, are inspirational – and demonstrate great success.
For those keeping score, here are the results. (I don’t think I’ve missed anything):
Tuesday, May 22: one photo and story, man
Saturday, May 26: two photos, both women
Saturday, June 2: two photos A1, woman and man; B1 photo and story, woman
Sunday, June 3: photo and story B1, woman
Thursday, June 7: two photos, men and women
Friday, June 8: three pictures of high school graduates (the two larger ones featured women, the smaller one featured men)
Saturday, June 9: one picture, women
Wednesday, June 13: two pictures, men
Friday, June 15: two A1 pictures (larger one featured two women and one guy more prominently, smaller one featured men), one on B1, featuring women
My conclusion: In terms of sheer numbers, we published six pictures of men, 11 of women. In terms of size, the edge goes to the women too. Beyond this, we have published features of high school and college graduates, and they’ve been pretty well split among men and women.
For broader context, from time to time we conduct gender audits in our newspaper to see how often we portray or quote women vs. men. Typically, white men receive more coverage than women.

P.S. Don't forget to pick up our Sunday Tribune where we'll have a special section listing the names of all high school graduates in the county, as provided by the schools. Plus, we'll cover Cal Poly's graduation ceremony then too.

-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Find your high school grad's name in The Tribune

Our coverage of local high school graduations culminates this weekend. Tonight our photographers will cover the pomp and circumstance at Atascadero and Morro Bay, then we head to San Luis Obispo, Paso and Shandon on Friday. Photos and stories will appear on the front-page of The Tribune, unless major breaking news occurs, and slide shows with extra photo coverage will be on
Then be sure to see Sunday's paper or pick up a copy -- we will publish our special grad list section. Every graduate's name will be printed, as supplied by the schools countywide, from Nipomo to Paso.
This is another way we are your community paper.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rudy Giuliani says "no'' to private interview for Tribune

Zach Frederick of SLO asked a question that several of you may have from time to time when a major political candidate visits the area: Why didn’t The Tribune get an interview with Rudy Giuliani to ask the former New York mayor’s opinion on migrant labor and nuclear power, among other issues local citizens are concerned about? “Sufficient local journalism would have provided an advance outline of Rudy's visit to Santa Margarita, coverage of the event on the day after (thank you), and a short interview with the candidate about issues of concern to Central Coast residents,’’ Frederick said. “If you asked for an interview and he declined, you should have pressed harder until you got what you wanted.’’

Philosophically, we completely agree with Mr. Frederick, but in reality events like this rarely – if ever – work as he suggests.
In this instance, after we learned that Rudy Giuliani would visit Santa Margarita, we wrote a short story on the upcoming visit and sought a private interview with him. We were told that after Giuliani spoke to the crowd, he’d spend a little time with all local media, collectively, not one-on-one. What occurred, however, was not as promised, according to Assistant City Editor Tony Prado who was in charge of the local coverage Sunday. “Giuliani's visit totaled barely 25 minutes at the park - like the old-fashioned whistle-stop tour,’’ Prado said. “Questions were allowed the moment Giuliani walked off the stage, but he was surrounded by his handlers and a crowd of onlookers taking pictures, listening in and trying to talk to him. He took only four questions, and that was it, then he was off.’’
As Managing Editor Tad Weber puts it, “political campaigns blow off all media at staged events when they want to, from the New York Times to The Tribune.’’ The best way around that is to research an issue in depth, then snare a 20-minute interview on the candidate’s campaign plane or vehicle with just the candidate, Weber added. We have done this in the past. But that wasn’t an option this time.

-- Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Are our editorial cartoons anti-Bush?

A reader called me this morning to complain about today's editorial page cartoon on Page B5. It shows a caricature of the president with his arm around Vladimir Putin. Bush asks Putin, "Can I look into your eyes again to see how your soul's doing?" Putin is thinking to himself: "How could I possibly want democracy for Russia if ninnies like this can get elected?"
Such a cartoon is demeaning to the president, the caller said, and he added that he never sees a cartoon that shows Bush in a positive light.
We do not have an opinion cartoonist on our staff, so we purchase them from a wire service. The one today was done by a cartoonist at the Daytona Beach, Fla. paper.
When I have heard editorial cartoonists talk about their work, a key point they make is that they don't care who is occupying the White House. Their main drive is to sketch provocative cartoons about that person, Republican or Democrat. Certainly when Bill Clinton was president, he was skewered frequently by cartoonists.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, June 11, 2007

NYT crossword puzzle and presidential debates

For all of our Sunday New York Times crossword fans, we apologize for the error in Sunday's Tribune. The syndicate sent us wrong information, I'm told, so that the clues, grid and answers didn't match ... yielding great frustration.
We will re-publish the correct puzzle in tomorrow's (Tuesday) edition.

Now to address a question by a faithful reader who found that our coverage last week of the Republican and Democratic presidential debates was unfair. Here's the query, followed by my explanation.

Q. Why did you give the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate greater visibility than you did the Republican presidential candidates’ debate? I think you folks try to be fair. But in this case I don’t think you did.
-- H.Z., Arroyo Grande

A. It is our intent to treat both equally. The stories we published on the debates were the same length. But I can understand your conclusion, given that we published the Democratic debate on page 3 of the A section with three photos, whereas the Republicans’ debate story appeared on page 6 of the A section with one smaller photo.
That occurred because the Democratic debate was on a Sunday when there was little other top news competing for our space (typical for a Sunday). By comparison, Tuesday yielded a great deal of news, from President Bush’s speech confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin, to the possibility of a parole for former White House aide Lewis “Scooter’’ Libby to the anniversary of D-Day.
Looking ahead, it appears that both Democrats and Republicans plan to take advantage of the slow Sunday news cycle. Each has scheduled three presidential debates on Sundays through the rest of this year.

-- Sandy Duerr

Friday, June 8, 2007

Why give "Hostel: Part 2" more press?

Linda R. Beck e-mailed me this morning to ask the following. I'm sharing it with you in the event you wonder the same thing ... and to explain our decision.

"I can understand the paper's decision to review the movie Hostel II (Ticket, 6/7/07) but why did this horror film rate an additional article ("Eli Roth knows how to slay ‘em") describing this movie and the previous one? It's bad enough that such vividly violent material is promoted as entertainment (and gets only an R rating). Does the area's main daily local newspaper have to provide additional publicity and dignify the work as mainline box office material? I understand that much of The Tribune's content comes pre-packaged from other sources, but I expect the local editors to exercise some discretion so that what they print is suitable for the community."

Here's my answer:
You’re correct in noting that we rely on our wire services to provide entertainment information that’s not local -- such as movie reviews and celebrity profiles.
Ticket Editor Justin Hoeger said he selected the second article about “Hostel: Part II” to offer insight into the director’s reasons for making such a disturbing series. “I thought readers might want some insight, upon reading the movie review, into what sort of person makes a movie like this.” The story allows readers to draw their own conclusions, he said.
Both this film and the original “Hostel’’ have been the subject of controversy. “’Hostel’ is frequently mentioned in reviews of other horror movies nowadays, and appears to be one of the standards by which contemporary horror films, or at least a sub-set of them, are judged,” Hoeger said.

-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Critic: "You weren't fair to Republicans!"

Arroyo Grande resident and longtime reader Harvey Zimmerman called me yesterday with an observation -- and question: "Why did you give the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate greater visibility than you did the Republican presidential candidates’ debate? I think you folks try to be fair. But in this case I don’t think you did."

Here is what I shared with him:
It is our intent to treat both campaigns equally. The stories we published on the debates were the same length. But I can understand your conclusion, given that we published the Democratic debate on page 3 of the A section with three photos, whereas the Republicans’ debate story appeared on page 6 of the A section with one smaller photo.
That occurred because the Democratic debate was on a Sunday when there was little other top news competing for our space (typical for a Sunday). By comparison, Tuesday yielded a great deal of news, from President Bush’s speech confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin, to the possibility of a parole for former White House aide Lewis “Scooter’’ Libby to the anniversary of D-Day.
Looking ahead, it appears that both Democrats and Republicans plan to take advantage of the slow Sunday news cycle. Each has scheduled three presidential debates on Sundays through the rest of this year.
-- Sandy Duerr

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Covering the environment, by design

One of the major story lines we orient our coverage by is the environment. Whether it is new development , preservation of greenbelts or species protection, we want to be the first to bring that news to you.
That is why our front page and are loaded today with environmentally related news topics. Staff Writer Kathe Tanner reports how the annual count of gray whale calves shows fewer animals swimming by our county and quotes a scientist speculating about possible reasons for the decline. AnnMarie Cornejo, who covers Pismo Beach, relates how city officials will try new ways to limit pigeons roosting on the town's pier, in an effort to clean up bacterial contamination that has closed the ocean waters just south of the wharf. And our Washington, D.C.-based reporter, David Whitney, reports on the latest tally of the health of the nation's estuaries. Morro Bay came out cleaner than most.
We do this because you have told us environmental coverage remains a key topic of interest to you. Let us know what you think.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

We cover high school graduations countywide

One of the proudest moments in any person's life is high school graduation, and we will be bringing readers complete coverage of all the pomp and circumstance again this year.
For example, today Templeton Independent Study High student Kellie Moss graces our Local section front page with a huge smile.
We kicked off our coverage in Saturday's issue with coverage of the Mission Prep graduation. One of our photos shows graduate Delise Rietkerk joyously running to embrace fellow grad Melissa Munoz.
As the graduations roll on this week and next, our photographers will be there. Look for extra photos of the ceremonies from some of the graduations to be posted on
Our effort culminates on Sunday, June 17, when we publish our special supplement that lists the names of the graduates from our area's high schools. For proud parents, it will be a neat keepsake.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, June 4, 2007

Catch the news with "Morning Headlines'' ... plus a reader's query on John Wayne

Sign up for The Tribune’s “Morning Headlines’’ at this link:

If you don’t have a chance to read your Tribune some mornings, I encourage you to sign up for “Morning Headlines,’’ the first of our e-mail newsletters.
We’re launching it around 8 a.m. today to give you the top four stories and photo of the day – two from our local news report and two more from Business, Sports or Features. Our staff will produce it every weekday.
Our intent is to “make it easier for you to keep up with local news, information and events by bringing that news right to your e-mail inboxes,’’ said Online Editor Sally Buffalo.
We also plan to send alerts when news breaks that we believe you would want to know immediately – such as a serious traffic tie-up, a fire or crime that could close off certain areas, a major news story or the death of a well-known figure, Buffalo said.
In coming weeks, we will offer an afternoon news update by e-mail as well.
“Morning Headlines’’ will offer a one-sentence summary of each news item and give a link to read the entire story on our Web site,
There, you’ll find a host of other information too, including audio and video reports and source documents that are exclusively online. Last month, for example, you could have accessed 80 documents, seven audio slideshows, three videos and 12 polls.
That’s not counting the wide range of other online features that complement and enhance our coverage of the county. Planning on touring a few wineries? Check out our suggested wine itineraries. Want to take a hike? Use one of our guides. Wondering where to eat out tonight? Browse through 250 local restaurant reviews.
One last note: If you’re not already checking throughout the day and evening for news updates, I encourage you to do so. Our reporters post nine to 12 breaking news stories there every Monday through Friday. And five reporters and editors now write blogs on the local entertainment scene and tourism, high school and collegiate sports and a peek behind our own curtain here at The Tribune (similar to this column, only online daily).
Clearly, the way in which we all obtain information is changing dramatically.
But you can count on us to navigate the waters locally and to be your trusted source. We’ll break news online but continue to give you more analysis and a deeper understanding of issues in our newspaper.

Q. What wonderful stories were told about John Wayne in Saturday's paper, May 26. I had tears in my eyes when I finished. I could hardly wait to see his movies all week long. It's Sunday now, and once again I have tears. After searching the TV program schedule and finding nothing about John Wayne, I went to the channel Web site. What a drag. The movies were on last week. How can you do such a thing? You print a story a week late as though it were up to date. ... Did you also participate in producing that newspaper that declared that Dewey had beaten Truman? … How are you going to make up for this? -- John Wolcott, San Luis Obispo

A. As John Wayne told Susan Hayward when he played Genghis Kahn in the movie, “The Conqueror,” ‘Yer beautiful in yer wrath! I shall keep you, and in responding to my passions, yer hatred will kindle into love.’ Clearly, it wasn’t our intent to upset you. Rather, it was to celebrate Wayne’s life and the impact he had on the film industry and people like you and me. Two of the three stories we published didn’t run on our wire services until late in the day May 23 and May 24, although the main story that listed 100 reasons to love Wayne did run earlier. We packaged three stories together because we had room in Saturday’s paper to offer a full page, which we lacked earlier in the week. Could we have published one story earlier to remind readers to look at their TV schedules for John Wayne films? Yes. How will we make up for this? By striving to alert you in advance to milestones like John Wayne’s birthday. To quote the Duke himself: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.

-- Sandy Duerr

Friday, June 1, 2007

A viewer criticizes us for allowing anonymous comments

One of our Web viewers took us to task today for allowing anonymous comment posting to our Web site:

"I think it is a shame that you let everyone post comments anonymously on your website, something you never have allowed in letters to the editor, and for good reason. If people were forced to leave their true identities when commenting then maybe there wouldn't be all this terrible, ugly, sickening trash talk stinking up this website. People will say anything, mindlessly beat up anyone with their words, if they don't have to take any responsibility for it. I imagine you allow it just so you can show that you have people interacting with your site. It's a sad trade-off which I think does more harm than good for our community. Don't you agree?"
_ David Ciaffardini, Oceano

To be sure, anonymity and the use of psuedonyms are widespread across the Internet. We are no different than most media sites. The prevailing theory is that it is more engaging to have a lively debate, even if it means letting people hide their true identities.

As to whether that causes more harm than good, that is open for debate. To be sure, ugly commenting does occur on our site, like most any Internet site that includes controversial topics. But there is also a lot of nastiness on talk radio, TV talk shows, etc.

I commend David for being up front about his identity with his comments. He has also been the most regular participant on this blog since Sandy Duerr and I launched it earlier this year. It would be great to have more participants, especially those who are willing to be recognized when they post.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Check out our new videos!

We’ve got two cool videos on today, thanks to photographers Laura Dickinson and David Middlecamp and features reporter Pat Pemberton. Check them out:

Video: Arroyo Grande High School cardboard boat regatta
Video: Music of Kenny Blackwell

As a newsroom, we are trying to produce more video to help us bring our stories alive. We just purchased a second video camera, this one quite small and easy to use, more like a digital point-and-shoot. And we're encouraging our news staff to try using it on their assignments.

-- Sandy Duerr

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We get an exclusive interview with President Bush

Our paper is owned by the McClatchy Co., the nation's second-largest newspaper corporation. As such, we get first crack at the top-notch reporting from the McClatchy bureau in Washington, D.C. Today is an example. White House correspondent Ron Hutcheson got an exclusive interview with President Bush while he traveled to Georgia yesterday. The president used the interview to promote his immigration plan and counter critics. We published Ron's story on Page A3. Here is the link to the story from our Web site:
Ron's relationship with President Bush began in the early 1990s in Texas. Ron is a University of Texas graduate who later worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and covered Bush when he became governor of Texas. Ron is one of the most knowledgeable reporters in Washington when it comes to all things pertaining to George W. Bush -- and our readers get the benefit of that with stories like today's.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Should we "stage'' photos? No

A reader recently complained that photography in our weekly Home section didn’t portray local houses to best advantage and that we should “stage’’ more photos.
Rochelle Reed, features editor of The Tribune, raised this concern in the May 25 issue. I think her response perfectly summarized our approach. Given that, I’ve included it verbatim below, in case any of our online readers hadn't read it:
“Staging is a term used when a home is accessorized in order to sell it. ‘Styling’ is the term that interior-decorating magazines and now television shows use when they temporarily supplement or completely replace a homeowner’s furnishings and accessories with more fashionable items.
“During the decade that I styled homes for decorating magazines, I straightened shelves, hid televisions, replaced dead plants and frequently brought in entirely new furniture. After a time, I realized how unfair we were to readers, who imagined that other homeowners lived in perfect environs totally without clutter. So in Home, we show homes just as they are, often well-lived or … maintained in pristine formality.
“What you see is what really exists.’’

-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Meet Bill and Bob, our new columnists

Do you want to share an inspirational story? Catch someone doing something good? Highlight a wrong that must be righted?
If the answer is yes ... and we suspect it is ... please be sure to tell Bill Morem and Bob Cuddy, veteran journalists who are now each writing a weekly local column.
We launched Bill's commentary today. Bob's column will appear on Sundays. Look for them both on The Tribune's Local section front.
They’ll write on topics of broad interest closely tied to current local news -- those that are inspirational; those that are wry, humorous slices of life; and those that hold our public officials accountable. As Bill wrote today, "you can check this spot for cheers, jeers, name-dropping and a little word-smithing along the way.''
Morem, a SLO native and longtime editor for The Tribune -- most recently as opinion page editor -- now is writing the column and editing the Sun Bulletin, our weekly that covers a large part of the North Coast. Cuddy, whose career spans 40 years, joined our staff in 2005 as the county government reporter specializing in growth and development issues.
As they begin telling you what they think, please be sure to let them know what you think too! I know they welcome your ideas and comments.

-- Sandy Duerr

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why the AP feature story on our front page today?

Our front-page today features a story from Pennsylvania about some Amish people with a rare liver disease. Because the story is not local, it has drawn some questions from readers:

"An AP story feature leads the front page and most of the words in section 1. Remind me why I subscribe to print papers again? If I want random AP stories, it's easier to get those elswehere, and more of them, for free. Maybe the Trib should include a note of explanation when they do this that all the LOCAL reporters were at a staff retreat, training, sick, or vacation and thus couldn't submit a news story today."
_ Still a Subscriber

"While I understand and can relate to the story, why is news from East Earl, PA front page news in SLO CA?"
_ Sue

"Front page is the perfect spot. It is a story about a parent's love for their children. ..."
_ AC

It is a fair question for our subscribers to ask why we put that story on our front page. The posting by AC helps answer in part -- it is a compelling human drama. From time to time Associated Press will move a story or series that has a dramatic subject and strong writing. We felt the "Blue Light" story met that test.
It is the exception for us to publish a Page 1 centerpiece that is not local. And when that does occur, we make sure to have other local stories on the page. Today, for example, the three other stories on A1 are all local and written by our staff. Our plans for the coming week call for staff-written centerpieces to anchor page 1.
We know our readers are keenly interested in local news. We strive to provide that coverage day in and out, and for the most part, I think we succeed. But we want to be open to publishing a really interesting story from anywhere. We think many, if not most, of our readers appreciate that, too.
I'd love to hear from you if you agree -- or disagree.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Who's reading us online ... in Massachusetts?

I thought you might be interested in who’s accessing our site.
Data from last week, May 13 to May 19, shows the following number of unique visitors and the percentage they represent of overall visitors. Clearly, SLO readers are in the lead.
If you know why we’re so popular in Massachusetts, please post a comment on this blog – and help us understand. We’ve seen this pattern now for several weeks.

1. San Luis Obispo (California, United States) 14,874 24.9%
2. Atascadero (California, United States) 2,232 3.7%
3. Los Angeles (California, United States) 2,121 3.5%
4. Grover Beach (California, United States) 1,874 3.1%
5. Lincoln (Massachusetts, United States) 1,721 2.9%
6. Waltham (Massachusetts, United States) 1,630 2.7%
7. Boston (Massachusetts, United States) 1,607 2.7%
8. San Jose (California, United States) 1,390 2.3%
9. San Francisco (California, United States) 1,299 2.2%
10. Morro Bay (California, United States) 1,285 2.2%

-- Sandy Duerr