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