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

1 comment:

Bob said...

Dear Tad,

I'd like to see the Tribune report more in depth information when reporting your news.

Example, the San Luis Police news conference yesterday. No asked the question, how much time elapsed between the time officers first arrived on scene and when they finally entered the house. Why do I think this is important? every second counts when your are tying to save a life. Now after the fact, it appears it would not have made a difference. However, no one knew that at the time the incident was occurring.

Second. In regards to the 19 year old in Los Osos who was severely beaten by police in a attempt to take him into custody. Why did you not report or ask question about, why cant 6-7 cops take down a 19 year old with out escalating to such a over whelming use of force. Are cops afraid to get dirty and wrestle a 19 year old to the ground with out shooting him with bean bags, pepper balls, pepper spray, tasers, and finally multiple blows with a batons? If this is policy, then why are you not asking why and what options are available and why are they not employed?

Third. Sheriff Hedges debacle. This is huge. Our sheriffs department is in crisis and has been for some time. where are your reporters?

I am not picking on law enforcement, we have some great cops working here. It's just so happens that they have been the headline news for the last week.