Monday, January 28, 2008

Reader says we slighted Obama's win in SC

I am so disappointed once again with The Tribune's front page headline article choice in the wake of Barack Obama's historic win in South Carolina. Your editorial choices consistently support the status quo of idea of divisive pessimism ... We deserve better. While that article raises some valid points it is a second page story with Obama's trouncing 55 to 27 was the front page story!
_ Mary Cowitz

Ms. Cowitz: First, thanks for taking the time to write and share your opinion. Let me explain why we chose the story we did for Sunday's front page. In today's 24-hour news cycle, the first news -- i.e. who won the primary -- gets widely reported online and on cable news channels and becomes well known long before our paper arrives at your home. So our challenge is to find an analysis of those results. In that way, we give you something fresh as a reader. In this case, we ran the analysis done by Steven Thomma, a reporter widely regarded for his astute coverage of presidential campaigns. He works for our parent company's bureau in Washington, D.C. I am sorry you felt the story promoted a value of divisive pessimism. Our intention was nothing more than to find a fresh take on the results from South Carolina.
_ Tad Weber

Monday, January 14, 2008

Measuring rainfall is difficult here

Several readers wondered why our totals for rainfall seemed so off base last week after the major story. I've included a couple of their queries here, followed by my response. -- Sandy Duerr

Q. For some time I have been comparing my own rain gauge with your weather page’s “past precipitation." The two have rarely come close. But now I am thoroughly puzzled. Your front page printed that San Luis Obispo had 2.45 inches of rain over (last) weekend. Yet your weather page stated that we have had only 0.57 inches during "month to date." Who's right, who's wrong, or better, why the discrepancy? I think The Tribune is an excellent newspaper, and I hope I don't sound critical.
-- David Sumi, San Luis Obispo

Q. Having run a small weather station for the city of Los Angeles years ago and having my own weather equipment, I check to see how my "totals" match up with your publication. I am very confused by the total for my city, Nipomo. Before this latest round of storms, the total was 2.36 inches. You stated, as did other publications, that the storm total was 2.28 inches. That would make the Nipomo total for the season 4.64 inches. You showed only 3.25 inches. …
-- Richard Tibben

A. We too are puzzled at the discrepancies and are working with Weather Central Inc., which provides our weather information, to remedy the ongoing problem. Weather Central told us that it published the same data for the city of San Luis Obispo during the most recent storm as the National Weather Service. The data it publishes for the cities of Morro Bay, Paso Robles and Pismo Beach are also from official National Weather Service stations. It prefers using the NWS data because “their sensors are large, expensive, calibrated on a regular basis and located only after significant scientific study,’’ according to Pat Weeden, customer service manager, newspaper services, for Weather Central.
The remaining cities whose rain totals we provide in "Yesterday Around SLO County" are from volunteer, private weather observers. Weeden says that his company does its best to contact these individuals at regularly scheduled times, to follow up when they are not home and generally make certain that we publish the best data possible. Since the observers aren’t always available to take readings, however, the company “often has missing readings, which produces ever increasingly bad data sets for the running totals,’’ Weeden says. “ I honestly do not have an acceptable solution for these cities, short of installing electronic weather stations with Internet access in each city, a dedicated PC with backup power, then assigning a data quality control person on my staff to check the readings every few hours and re-calibrate the sensors twice a year. This would cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, and is unrealistic.”
In addition, our county has many micro-climates – meaning that there could be different amounts of rainfall within just one community.
Looking ahead, we are considering asking Weather Central to install an official NWS station at The Tribune (the others are at Cal Poly and the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport). We’ll keep you posted on that effort.
In the meantime, I hope this explanation helps you better understand the issues involved in providing you a complete and accurate weather report. Clearly, our system has inherent imperfections, for logical reasons. We’ll continue to do our best to resolve them, and we thank you for your understanding and patience as we do so.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Why we ran the Benazir Bhutto interview

I’m distressed by the article in Parade on Benazir Bhutto. In light of her assassination, that article seemed disrespectful. Why didn’t you print a disclaimer saying why it was running now?
-- Sharon Brown

Ms. Brown makes a point and asks a question that several other readers have raised with us. We did print an abridged editor's note on the front page in Sunday's paper that said Parade's lead story was an exclusive interview with Bhutto and was likely one of the last she granted before her assassination.
But we should have done a better job to explain that the issue of Parade had been printed and distributed to subscribing papers weeks in advance of Bhutto's untimely death. We also should have pointed out that, despite the murder, we believed the story to be relevant because of the answers that Bhutto gave to award-winning author Gail Sheehy, who conducted the interview. It was for that reason that we decided to include this edition of Parade in the Sunday paper.
_ Tad Weber