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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I noticed a small article in Thursday's Tribune about Santa Monica's battle against Ficus trees that upend sidewalks. They want to replace these trees that were mistakenly planted on city streets. Sound familiar?

Both San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay spend more money replacing sidewalks and curbs uprooted by street trees than they do trimming the trees.

Why not just admit they were the wrong tree in the first place? Just because you remember street trees in your hot midwestern town, doesn't mean we needed them here on our narrow sidewalks.

Here's what ran in the LA Times:

Rebecca Trounson

Ficus fans dealt setback in court

A campaign by environmentalists to save 30 mature ficus trees targeted for removal from downtown streets in Santa Monica received a setback Wednesday as a state appeals court ruled attempts to spare the trees came too late.

The Treesavers group did not meet the statute of limitations when it filed a claim accusing the city of violating California Environmental Quality Act regulations, according to the court.

Despite the ruling, Treesavers will press on with its campaign to save the trees along the business district's 2nd and 4th streets, said group spokesman Jerry Rubin. He said activists have unsuccessfully urged the city to hire "an independent certified arborist" to review trees' health and likelihood of branch failure.

City officials want to replace the 20-year-old ficus trees with smaller ginkgoes whose roots are less likely to buckle sidewalks.