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Archive for June 11th, 2007

Did you read the paper? (A rant)

Monday, June 11th, 2007

I usually don’t rant, as I know they’re unproductive. I especially know this topic of rant will never change and I will just need to deal, but seriously, give me a break.

I just checked my J&C e-mail and saw a forwarded e-mail from a reader to the ME to my editor to me. (Don’t know why the person didn’t cut out the middle men and save us both time.)

I hear a lot from people, when I’m out on assignment, when I’m covering meetings (during meetings from patrons and officials), in my e-mail, my voicemail, even doing man on the street. They all say we are always writing negative stories about (insert your school of choice here, though mostly it’s one H.S. in particular, even though the “officials” involved would tell you we’re not picking on them and are fair).

Usually I’m able to shrug it off by pointing out, often within the same edition, some “positive” story about the schools. And often times, the stories I write aren’t negative. They’re the news. I can’t help it if your school performed poorly on state tests or if there was a major problem there that we covered. I don’t make these things up, I just write about them. And the thing is, I probably write 9 to 10 more stories that are “positive” than “negative.” (I put them in quotes because I actually aim to be neutral, though obviously writing a story about a kid scoring a perfect ACT is more positive than a story about a hit list at a high school.) You just don’t remember them.

But today, for some reason, this comment got under my skin. It was from a reader, who is not even related to this academic team competing for the national title this afternoon. The person complained that, “Why isn’t this team being covered? If they were a sports team or from another local school they would be on the front page!”

I had to re-read and make sure they were talking about the team I thought they were. The team about which I posted a half dozen web updates last Monday when they were competing for a spot at today’s competition? The team about which WE DID run a front page article last Tuesday? (note that we only run three stories on the front page.) The team about which we have a brief in today’s paper telling people to check out jconline today for coverage and reaction from Orlando? Yes, I lined this all up ahead of time with the coach.

And then, the person complained about us not including photos. Well, I’m sorry we didn’t send a photographer to D.C. and Orlando. And I’ve already discussed photos with the coach. And, yes I know the team is being honored this week at the school board meeting, which if you attended many meetings you’d know is actually quite common. I knew before you. It’s on the agenda, and the coach already let me know a bit ago. When the team gets back (they were gone half of last week and half the team was out of town the second half of the week elsewhere), I am planning to do a feature on them.

Usually, I just let comments like this pass without giving a second thought. But maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but did they even read the paper or Web site? I think the real issue for me is just that this is one of the instances where I did do it right. And people still complain. Ugh.

I just don’t understand what prompted this person to complain. Every thing they say was wrong. I do get some legitimate complaints throughout the semester about us not covering this or that, or giving more coverage to this program here and not so much there. Often times, the reality is I can’t cover things I don’t know about, and some coaches/advisers are just better PR people for their groups. If nobody tells me something is happening until it’s a week past and you’re sending me a whiney e-mail, there really isn’t much I can do at that point. That is part of the reason we’re creating microsites for the schools, so that those things that fall between the cracks now can land somewhere. So as much as it sucks, I can’t possibly cover every single team, club and event at each of the schools here. It’s just me on this beat, and I work as hard as I can. Ten of me couldn’t get it all, and even if we could, we don’t have room in print. Like everything else, we have to decide and allocate our resources — whether its my time or column inches. Thing is, this time, the complaints came even though we allocated in favor of this group. And that set me off.