Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Go on and criticize us ...

Q. In January, you (Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane) assured me that letters critical of The Tribune are not a reason for rejection. Am I to believe that a letter critical of the paper's editorial board is another matter?
-- Donald Hirt, Paso Robles

A. We have long published letters and viewpoints critical of our editorial positions. “While we do reserve the right to reject letters that contain personal attacks and/or unfounded allegations, we don’t reject letters on the basis of political ideology,’’ says Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane. That said, letter writers should keep in mind that we have a larger than usual volume of letters right now, and that will likely continue to be the case through the November election. We’re delighted to have so many submissions, but it does mean that it may take longer than usual for a particular letter to appear.

-- Sandra Duerr

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Check out our "Photos from the Vault''

Q. “Photos from the Vault’’ is an amazing blog! I recommended it to my dad, who is an elementary school teacher in Atascadero and is very interested in local history.
-- Diana T.

A. We’re so glad you enjoy it. The Tribune’s articles and pictures “are the record of a community’s hopes, ambitions, successes and disasters,’’ says senior photographer David Middlecamp, who created the blog last November. He hopes it will “give people a stronger connection to their evolving community -- where it has been and where it is headed.”
So far the blog has proven quite popular. “It seems to be a gathering point for folks to share their memories,’’ Middlecamp says. “People can click on the photos to see a larger version and post comments on what they see and read.’’
In searching for photos in The Tribune’s archives, Middlecamp says he looks “for news, seasonal stories, trends, beginnings, endings, oddities or a pop culture moment. … It is not all cheerful nostalgia; there are cringe-worthy moments of dated coverage reflecting the bias of the times.” Many photos don’t make the cut, such as awards banquets.
Middlecamp tries to post three photos a week and enjoys the give-and-take among online readers. If you haven’t visited the blog yet, I encourage you to do so at http://slovault.blogspot.com/ Besides learning about some of our county’s history, you’ll gain insight into the major national news of the day and our own newsroom’s operation.

-- Sandy Duerr

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reader calls some stories "tabloid journalism''

Q. I am livid about the nonsense articles that are being printed in The Tribune about (San Luis Obispo City Councilman) Allen Settle. To me this is tabloid journalism and not worthy of The Tribune. Allen Settle has worked tirelessly for the citizens of San Luis Obispo and our beautiful community for over 25 years. Why don’t you print an article about all his good works and not the crap you’re printing now?
-- Naoma Wright, San Luis Obispo

A. Councilman Settle has, indeed, worked hard on behalf of his constituents for many years. We have addressed Settle’s many contributions over the years on other occasions. But with all due respect to the councilman and to all city residents, the issue about whether his primary residence is within the city is very relevant. For his part, the councilman’s answers about where he truly lives – in the common-sense definition of residency – have been incomplete and legalistic.
The law requires him to live in the city, and most voters would take that to mean where you sleep, eat and entertain friends – not just an address from which you send mail and record on your income tax.
-- Sandra Duerr

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reader upset over sexy photo we published

Q: That photo you ran of Toni Braxton on Page A2 Wednesday was extremely repulsive and lascivious. It is one of the worst photos I have ever seen in a family newspaper. I'm not a prude -- I am a healthy male. But that was beyond the pale.
-- Lee Agon, Paso Robles

To be sure, the image we published in our Espresso column on Wednesday of Braxton is eye-catching. The singer is shown in a performance at the NBA All-Star game in January. Here is a link: www.cbc.ca/cp/entertainment/080408/e040866A.jpg
The photo was chosen because that is what AP provided along with a story about a health problem forcing her to cancel a concert.
To be sure, we are in charge of everything we put into The Tribune. But we use our wire services, such as Associated Press, for coverage of people and events beyond our borders. This is especially true for celebrity news.
We try to be sensitive to the images we use. Celebrities today, however, are often dressed in provocative costumes, and that is what we are limited to choosing from.
_ Tad Weber

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Our coverage of Councilman Settle: tabloid journalism?

N. Wright left a message on my voice mail this morning upset about our coverage of SLO Councilman Allen Settle:

"I am livid about the nonsense articles that are being printed in The Tribune about Allen Settle. To me this is tabloid journalism and not worthy of The Tribune. Allen Settle has worked tirelessly for the citizens of San Luis Obispo and our beautiful community for over 25 years. Why don’t you print an article about all his good works and not the crap you’re printing now?"

I appreciate Wright's sentiments and others who might agree with her.
But I respectfully disagree that the subject matter – whether Councilman Settle’s home in SLO is his primary residence – is not relevant. It is relevant. Recent questions have been raised about the frequency of Settle’s stays at his hilltop home in rural Arroyo Grande, and one city resident plans to send a letter to the California attorney general to express his concerns. As an elected official for the city of SLO, Settle can best carry out his duties if he actually lives in the city he represents. Our news coverage has explored what the law says about residency, and our editorial has taken a stance on the matter. We have addressed Settle’s many contributions over the years on other occasions.

-- Sandra Duerr

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why we reported high school gun stories differently

Q. I am a student at Atascadero High School and I find it very unfortunate how two similar incidents occurred and how they were reported so differently. I’m talking of the incident of guns on high school campuses. … While the incident at SLO High was barely reported at all, and months after the fact, the incident at Paso Robles High School was exaggerated and over-reported. Why is San Luis Obispo immune to negative publicity while north of the grade gets more than its fair share? … I love living in San Luis Obispo County, but why is it so divided?
-- Cindi Weber, student, Atascadero High School

A. It would take a lot of time to try explaining the parochial and sometimes divisive nature of our county. But I can address the difference in our coverage of the two incidents cited. Briefly, we wrote more stories about the one in Paso Robles because of deeper parental concerns about safety overall at the high school.
For those who don’t recall, let me recap.
Rumors of a possible fight or other violence at Paso Robles High School prompted parents to pull their children out of classes on March 14, 2007 and officials to double the number of uniformed police officers on campus then to four. Fifteen percent, or 321 high school students, didn’t attend classes that day, and an additional 355 students were absent for at least one class period. That merited a front page story. While no incidents occurred that day, the strong parental concern over these rumors and fights and thefts at the school led officials to set up a meeting to discuss school safety. More than 300 people attended. We covered that prominently, as well as ongoing efforts to increase security at the school.
In San Luis Obispo, school officials and police were alerted by a tipster to the gun incident at SLO High School nearly two months after it occurred. Police investigated and determined that two students had a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun on campus Jan. 18 in their backpacks and shot it at a target on undeveloped school district property next to the ball field at San Luis Coastal Adult School, which is next to the high school. The two students were arrested for allegedly bringing a gun to school; that investigation ultimately led police to arrest two other students suspected in multiple home burglaries. This news made our front page. As far as we have determined, there was no major parental outcry. The story ended there.
_ Sandra Duerr

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How did we hear about the choking boy?

Q. How did you hear about the Nipomo school secretary who saved a choking 7-year-old boy?
-- Member, Rotary Club of Los Osos

A. Principal Paul Jarvis of Dana Elementary School called to tell us about the incident, according to Don Murphy, assistant city editor. Jarvis wanted to praise school employee Fella Gutierrez, whose quick action was credited for saving the life of the first-grader who was choking on a grape. We greatly appreciate such news tips. Please call local news editor Matt Lazier on our news hot line at 781-7928 — or e-mail Lazier at mlazier@thetribunenews.com or citydesk@thetribunenews.com.

-- Sandy Duerr