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

Monday, May 21, 2007

We take you inside Atascadero State Hospital

If you want to get a unique look into what it is like to work at Atascadero State Hospital, click here:
That link will take you to an audio slide show by Tribune senior staff photographer David Middlecamp. He filmed ASH psychatric technician Brian Eddy on a recent work day at the state hospital.
Eddy tells viewers what it is like to manage a population of patients who are being treated for mental disorders, all with the goal of helping them regain sanity so they can stand trial in criminal court.
David's slide show accompanies a strong story by staff writer Stephen Curran. The link will also take you to that story.
_ Tad Weber

Friday, May 18, 2007

I took the challenge of Bike to Work Week in SLO

Like you, I read our advance stories about the annual Bike to Work and School Week, which began Monday and concludes today. I wanted to do my part for the environment. And with gas prices being what they are, it made even more sense.
So here it is Friday, and I am proud to report I have biked to The Tribune four of the five work days this week. I've been the guy heading down Tank Farm Road in the screaming yellow-green jacket around 9 a.m. every day.
A few observations:
-- Free coffee from participating coffeehouses in town: A great idea. Just this simple thing was a good motivator for me -- I had to get that free cup! Thanks to the organizers and participating coffeehouses that joined in.
-- There is lots of junk alongside the road. I ride Tank Farm Road to get to the newspaper, and when I am not keeping an eye out for cars and big trucks speeding by at 50 mph or more, I am trying to dodge the flotsam and jetsam along the roadway shoulder. It has me thinking that I should adopt part of the Tank Farm stretch for a cleanup. If you are hauling stuff to the dump, please keep it tied down.
-- Many motorists are cool. Sure, there are the usual jerks out there who buzz by too close. But I found a good number of drivers giving me a wide berth or politely letting me pass. Thanks!
What is the end result of this week's experiment? For one, it took me back to an earlier time, like my high school years when all I had for transportation was a bike. The memories were nice, but the reality is that I can do this. So I plan to keep it up as much as I can, at least while daylight savings time lasts.
If you've been riding this week, share your comments here.
_ Tad Weber

Your commenting on our stories more than ever

Recently we added the ability to post a comment with very nearly every local story on, and you viewers have responded. Here is a summary from Online Editor Sally Buffalo:
" We have seen a huge spike in the number of comments since we started putting it on all stories – more than doubling from a couple months ago and still rising. I guess it makes sense that the more stories you have it on, the more you will get. But it seems our users have really responded.
"We also have started to “reverse-publish” some of our comments in the Opinion section when we get especially good ones on a particular subject. This has gotten a good response, and I think drives print readers to see what more is on the web as well."
Sally is pointing to our "Web talk" feature on the Opinion page. Check it out in the print edition of The Tribune if you've not seen it.
I also want to highlight yet another new Web feature our online team has added to our site: Most-Read Stories. The box, on the right side of the home page, updates every hour. So you can click in throughout the day to see what stories are resonating most.
_ Tad Weber

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Making sense of attempted murder-suicide

Staff Writer Sarah Arnquist writes a compelling story today on that addresses why a Grover Beach man in his 80s might have shot himself and his wife.
She survived the shooting and is now being treated at Stanford Medical Center. The man had been fighting cancer, and as Sarah reports neighbors saying, had suffered declining health in recent months. His wife had suffered from dementia-like symptoms, so theirs was a tough life. Compounding matters, neighbors told Sarah how the man was fiercely independent and did not want help from others. Sarah quotes experts with local agencies that support caregivers about how to look for signs of depression in elderly people as a first step toward seeing their needs and trying to come to their assistance.
This kind of context is important to providing a fuller understanding of such tragedies, and it is a key aspect of the journalism we offer readers and viewers.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why we named the victim of an attempted murder

We’ve received both praise and criticism for identifying the elderly woman who was shot by an elderly man in a Tribune story this morning. The critics say we lack concern for the family. “The law states that the name of the victim will not be released, so you basically work around the authorities and release it yourself.’’ Supporters noted that it was no secret who the victims were, that The Tribune was just doing its job and that “reporting the victim’s name quells fears and concerns’’ among those who might fear the victim could have been someone else at the trailer park where the incident occurred.
As we noted in the story, Grover Beach police officials refused to provide the woman’s name, claiming it was a domestic abuse case and citing an exception in the California Public Records Act allowing victims’ names to be withheld.
After confirming the victim’s name different ways, we published it because police called the incident an attempted murder-suicide. We rarely, if ever, cover individual domestic violence disturbances but we do report names involved in murders and attempted murders. Moreover, the woman we identified was no longer at risk of danger because, police said, the man who shot her had killed himself.
-- Sandra Duerr

Monday, May 14, 2007

All-Star mother: Did our story send a message?

Lively comments have been posted in reaction to our Saturday front-page story, "An all-star mother." The story, by senior staff writer Brian Milne, tells how Cal Poly softball player Shannon Brooks has juggled mothering her 9-month-old daughter Alannah with playing for the Mustangs softball team this spring.
Some Web viewers questioned our news judgment, especially with the story running on Mother's Day weekend.
Here was one post from an anonymous reader:
"The Telegram Tribune putting an article on the front page celebrating an unwed mother for mothers day? Sick. "
In another posting, a viewer named John wondered if we could have found a more deserving woman to highlight -- one who was married. Shannon and her fiance, Poly football player Julai Tuua, plan to get married this summer.
Shannon's story was not the only one we had this past weekend recognizing motherhood. We published a front-page story on Sunday about a Paso Robles couple who are foster parents to 11 children.
We highlighted both stories because they are inspirational -- they show people like you and me acting with courage, grace, determination and dedication in the face of long odds.
They also both shared the quality of being unusual. It is not often that foster parents take in 11 children at a time, or that a full-time athlete in a high-caliber college program has to be a full-time mom at the same time. Or that the team itself embraces mother, dad and daughter like the Cal Poly softball women did this season with Shannon, Julai and Alannah.
When stories are inspirational and unusual, they make for good storytelling and thus good journalism.
_ Tad Weber

Friday, May 11, 2007

Our headline on school story missed the mark

Two readers questioned our choice of words in the headline Thursday announcing that the Arroyo Grande High School principal was stepping down to become an elementary school principal at Ocean View in the same district.
We wrote: "A.G. High's principal announced a downgrade."
That headline “is an insult to Ocean View and it is a slap-in-the-face to all elementary school principals,’’ wrote Ann Dennis of Cambria. “ You could have used "departure", "reposting,' or even a compound like "job change." It may not be in the dictionary, but it is kinder than "downgrade." They all have the nine letters needed for that headline.”
Colleen Marin, a trustee with the Lucia Mar Unified School District, wrote us that Ryan Pinkerton, the high school principal, has “performed as an excellent leader of one of the county’s largest companies (Arroyo Grande High School),” and simply asked for a transfer. “All of our schools are important and Mr. Pinkerton's new position at Ocean View Elementary will be a win for our district. Perhaps a better headline could have read something like "Pinkerton reaffirms his commitment to Lucia Mar."
I agree with our critics.
Pinkerton had asked for the change of duties so that he could spend more time with his family right now.
Our headline writer did not mean to slight Pinkerton or elementary schools. Still, the headline gave two erroneous impressions – first, that Pinkerton was demoted and second, that being an elementary school principal is somehow a lesser job. Both are false.
-- Sandy Duerr

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Speak up: Give us your thoughts on our coverage

As online readers of The Tribune know, we are increasingly seeking your thoughts on stories that we publish, especially on local issues. It's simple to do: Just click on the Post A Comment section on any story on our Web site, Your comments are helpful in two ways: They foster debate among the community and give us greater insight into the story itself. Increasingly, this interaction is helping our reporters better cover local issues.
We're now beginning to reverse publish some of these excerpts on our Editorial page too. Our intention is to take the best of the comments on a subject and publish those daily. Today, for example, we offered readers' comments on the county board's decision this week to hire a $60,000 expert to fight obesity here.
Speaking of the Opinion Page, I was recently asked if we publish poems there. We generally do not allow them, although we have made rare exceptions for short, cleverly written poems that address local issues. Editorial Page Editor Stephanie Finucane says we'll make a point to include the prohibition on poetry in the expanded letter guidelines.
-- Sandy Duerr

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Green building makes for good news

If you are interested in the green-building movement, make sure to read the lead story under our Business link on Staff Writer Ermina Karim did a question-and-answer interview with Erik Justesen of RRM Design in San Luis Obispo. The firm was an early proponent of green building techniques, and it offers its employees cool incentives toward becoming more Earth-friendly (such as $1,000 bonuses for the first five to buy a hybrid vehicle this year). Green building and recycling efforts are now key news in today's media landscape. If you know of any local efforts that you think are newsworthy, please share that with our readers here by posting a tip.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Why the Greensburg tornado story didn't make our front page

A reader called Monday, upset that we had failed to run coverage of the deadly tornadoes in Greensburg, Kansas, on our front page Sunday. We published a small A1 photo that day of the damage directing readers to a story and more photos on page A3.
Unquestionably, this was a tragic event that killed nine people and destroyed 95 percent of the town of 1,500.
We made our decision because the news was nearly 36 hours old by the time readers received our paper Sunday morning and the disaster had been widely reported by then on TV and Web sites. (The tornadoes struck Greensboro late Friday, but news of the tragedy didn’t run on our wire services until 4 a.m. Saturday – long past our deadline for Saturday’s newspaper.)
Our intent is always to offer readers the freshest news, context or analysis possible and to give priority to local news since that is our franchise and we know readers turn to us foremost for that. That said, thoughtful people can reach different conclusions. What would you have done?
-- Sandra Duerr

Monday, May 7, 2007

All the crime news fit to print?

This post was written by Popeye and put onto our discussion board on last week:

"Has anyone else ever wonderd why crimes that happen in the town known as "Almost Paradise" aka, Paso Robles don't make the pages of the Tribune. Just last Saturday night at a party of young people in Paso Robles, a young man ... was stabbed in the neck with a broken beer bottle. He was taken to the hospital by friends before both police and paramedics arrived on the scene ... But I think it is not a case of cover up on the part of the Trib as much as it is a cover up by officials in Paso Robles to once again hide the ugly fact that crimes, specifically violent crimes actually take place."

I asked City Editor Matt Lazier whether we'd heard of this incident last week, and he said he had not. Bottom line: If we'd learned of it, we likely would have reported it (i.e., as long as the victim did not self-inflict the wounds. If he had, then we enter a discussion about attempted suicide).
We publish a police blotter nearly every day in our Local section. It includes items from around the county. We do rely on the police and Sheriff's Department to make us aware of newsworthy calls their officers and deputies respond to. We would be similar to most all community papers in that regard. To be sure, there are occasions when police, for their investigative purposes, choose to keep an incident quiet. Sometimes people in a community will tip us to an incident, and we can report it, or at least look into it.
Otherwise, we follow our regular practices of making calls every morning to the police departments to find out what significant calls they have been on. We also regularly review the list of police calls known as the log.
You can also see all the calls reported to the San Luis Obispo Police Department on our Web site. It updates every day.
_ Tad Weber

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Don't miss these photos!

If you haven’t checked out our photo galleries on The Tribune’s Web site lately, I encourage you to do so. They are now far easier to use. Check out an example here:
It has become common practice for us to post on our own photographers’ pictures that weren’t used in the newspaper. This not only showcases their work, but gives you a chance to broaden your knowledge about the events we cover – and, if you attended them, see if you’ve been photographed!
-- Sandy Duerr

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bears, coyotes and mountain lions on the march in SLO County

Q: What do bears, coyotes and mountain lions have in common?
A: They're wild, they're all around us, and coming to a town near you.
Our story today about a morning sighting of a mama bear and her cub in Atascadero reminded me of the wildlife we have living here with us in SLO County. We broke news of the bear sighting on yesterday morning and it was one of our best-read stories on the site on Tuesday.
This probably won't be the only such sighting this year. We have quoted wildlife experts in previous coverage about how wild animals become emboldened to stray into populated areas whenever droughts occur in order to find water and, perhaps, a quick meal, like a house cat.
So experts say to take care of your pets -- ie, don't leave food for them outside. That just attracts the wild critters.
We are planning a story in coming weeks about the drought and its looming impact on wildlife, so look for it in The Tribune and
If you have a wildlife story to share, post a comment here. And should any of you snap any photos of bears, coyotes or mountain lions in your yards, let us know!
_ Tad Weber