Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Reader raises concerns about coverage of former principal



I hope to regularly share reader correspondence on this blog. If one reader raises a question, chances are good others feel the same way. Here's an e-mail we received Sunday about Saturday's coverage of Michael Maples' arrest. My response follows.


Comments -- I cringed when I saw the headlines and the pictures this
morning.  I was ashamed of my hometown paper.  I am an Advocate Subscriber
and have been for about 20 years..... I am a supporter of our paper.  This story has been covered by our paper up to this a professional way.  The items covered were newsworthy and as a reader I needed to know. This last article reminded me of Tabloid coverage.  It was awful to see the photo you took.  What was the purpose?  Why did you feel it was necessary to humiliate this man to this extent.  He is already paying the
price for his dishonesty.  This last article and very specifically the
picture was a step too far.  The advocate has covered all the information
we need to have and can continue to cover information without humiliating
Mr. Maples with that picture and the huge headline you published.  It
could have been covered without the extra dramatic effect of a huge
headline and you could have used the file photo if  you needed a picture.
It made my heart feel sad that we would do this to a person.  Please
consider that we have a wonderful paper that I have always felt proud of.
I did not feel that way today.  I discussed this with family and friends
and they were also taken aback at the extent to which the Advocate sell papers.


Thank you for writing. I'll share your concerns with other editors in the newsroom. Reader feedback helps us know what you want to see in your hometown newspaper. I also will post this questions and response to my new editor's blog at because I suspect others may be interested in the subject. I won't use your name in the online post unless you respond granting your permission to do so.
As you know, we've aggressively covered the Michael Maples case because it is of high interest and importance to the community. Our editorial Sunday on the importance of background checks is the latest example of this. Throughout the coverage thus far, Mr. Maples has been unavailable for comment. We received a tip that he would be turning himself in and posting bail Friday and took that opportunity to ask him for comment on the case.
I agree we probably could have done without the second mention in the story that Mr. Maples declined to comment. One response explained the former principal's position. The second reference may have appeared to be rubbing it in. Our hope, of course, was that he would talk in detail about the case and explain the situation to the public he was hired to serve.
Regarding the photograph, we always want to capture the images of the current news and avoid using old file pictures whenever possible. I grant you that no reasonable person would want to be photographed being arrested and posting bond, but we routinely look for such news images while covering the criminal justice system. Earlier in the week, we showed a suspect in the Saxet Lake homicide investigation.
I hope this helps you understand what we do and why. I share the sympathy you feel for a man who clearly has gone down a bad path in life. Please feel free to contact me again about any questions or suggestions you have. My new editor's blog is one more forum for having these important discussions.
Chris Cobler
Victoria Advocate