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Reading between the lines

July 9, 2008 - LLee Janssen

It's tough to keep up with everything, but the reporters here try to stay on top of all things important to the communities we serve. Still, it doesn't always come easy, and too often their efforts are underappreciated.

Case in point: I received a call from a reader Monday morning, who began by telling me, "Your lazy reporters ..." and continued with some not-so-kind words about ineptitudes that prevented her from getting what she said was one line of print about a bad accident over the weekend.

After hearing her out and promising to look into the matter, I reviewed the papers and found a page-one report about several really bad accidents, including a fatality on Interstate 80. Toward the end of the report were several paragraphs about the other accident in question, and the ending that stated the city police captain said no other information would be available until Monday morning.

I tried to call the caller back to report what I had found, but to no avail. So out there in readership land is a disgruntled reader who doesn't mind taking potshots but perhaps missed seeing that particular story or didn't read the city police's declining to provide additional details she sought.

The sad thing is, this sort of thing happens all too frequently. It's tough to be a reporter and to go out and face a community with few kind words about anybody in this business.

Myself, I've taken a share of potshots over stuff I've not had any control: I was accosted once over mushrooms in Wegman's by somebody upset by an editorial; another time, I was meeting up w/ friends after returning here to work (yes, many years ago) at the Sun-Gazette and had the misfortune of being overheard by a nearby man with an grudge over a news article even more years before that. I've faced down some really angry types who have come into the newsroom, fists clenched and looking for a fight due to reports on the crime page. It didn't take long for the walls to go up and for me to shield my living from those negative beings who would like to see the newspaper up and disappear from store shelves.

But then who would tell you when your borough council passes laws that directly impact you? Who would dig into the nitty gritty of sewer issues that are causing a lot of unease and financial distress in the region? How would you know about plans to close schools and ship your kids farther by bus to another location?

Sure, people would find out about those things, in time. Maybe not in time to provide input to your elected officials, but you'd end up knowing about it when you get a letter demanding thousands of dollars to hook into the new sewer system. Is that how people want to find things out?

We, inside the business, hear much about negative news. And we hear much negativity from people who judge us on how we deliver the news. Please don't do that ... we are human beings too, with hopes and dreams and kids and lives, just like everyone else. And while we are out striving to find positive news stories to balance the bad, it would be so nice for these young, hard-working people who dig it up, day in and day out, to feel appreciated.

Just like I told the caller, we are not stupid, but give me time to sort through the facts and we'll do our best to get all of the news in. After that, all we can do is hope that the caller who belittled us so much would go back and actually read the whole story instead of making such horrid assumptions.


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