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Sorry for reading your post too quickly. Everyone needs an editor. :)
One small quibble, then I will let this go. (I will try, anyway). The following from paragraph 3 is what I actually suggested for neutral language, "In order to avoid the gray areas you mentioned, and the perception of bias, the story could simply have used a more neutral word like 'beset' instead of a loaded word like 'humbled.' " I was simply suggesting change the one word in the original story.I'm quite sure that Bush detractors would object to the suggested phrasing of "persevering though beset by economic turmoil." If you go back and reread paragraphs 3 and 4, I think you will see that was the point I was trying to make. What's sauce for the goose, etc. The non-neutral language usually seems to favor the Bush detractors, and not vice versa.
Fair enough, Arlene. I appreciate you pointing out a specific example. The conversation is much more constructive when we're talking about specifics rather than general impressions, i.e., all stories in all media outlets are biased.
In terms of specifics, I expect Bush detractors would object to your suggested phrasing of "persevering though beset by economic turmoil." Instead, AP might have written "dealing with the economic turmoil that has darkened his final days." I wonder whether Bush would say he feels humbled. If he did, would that make AP's original phrasing OK?
On a practical note, we don't have the time on any given night to prosecute every single AP story we publish. We pay AP and its legion of editors to do that for us. As our critics will attest, we have our hands full gathering, writing and editing our local content.
You make a good point about neutral language. I submit that neutral language should not be confused with neutered language. Newspapers are losing readership, in part, because the younger generation considers them boring and irrelevant. If we are paralyzed by the very thought of aggressively reporting, writing or editing, we will produce a newspaper that offends no one -- and interests about the same number.
I suggest an answer is to be as open and transparent as possible about what we do and to engage in conversations like this one. Our challenge is to help readers understand their hometown and locally owned newspaper is not part of any media conspiracy. We surely have our faults, but no one has sworn me into the secret club setting out to rule the world via media bias.
P.S. Hook 'em 'Horns. Wipe out those Razorbacks.
Chris, I am not expecting perfection. You are the one who asked readers to tell you when we think news articles drift across the line into editorializing. I gave you an example. Did you not mean what you said? All I am saying is, you admit this was a gray area. A small change in wording would have taken it out of the gray area. So why not just make that change? If you can make such small changes to lessen the polarity of feelings in this country, why would you not do it? I suggest that the original wording was meant to provoke readers; mission accomplished. I also do not deny the influence of TV and the Internet in declining newspaper readership--I said specifically "part of the reason." I am also quite aware of the yellow journalism of times past. As a genealogist, I have spent many hours looking at old microfilm. I also have an old copy of the Express-News dated Feb. 25, 1940 in which Hitler was referred to with far more neutral language than George W. Bush is in today's papers.Chris, I am not attacking you. I think you do a commendable job. I was just suggesting a small area that could be improved. I am not expecting you to single-handedly save the future of print journalism. I guess I am just remembering back to the Dark Ages at UT when my journalism teacher would have taken her red marker to that statement about Bush being humbled.
I agree it's a gray area. After that, it's all debatable.
The only point I'd clarify in your statement is that readership was much higher in the days before TV and computers were pervasive. It didn't have much to do with the writing style of the time. In fact, if you go back and read some news stories of old, you'll find quite colorful language used. Much of the writing then would be considered scandalous today. That's not to condemn days gone by; they were just different times.
Maybe I'm missing the sweet spot when journalists were getting it all exactly right. If you have a specific era in mind, I'd enjoy seeing the newspaper from that time. With our archives digitized by Google, you could search for that ideal front page. Click here to get to the Google archives and enter Victoria Advocate in the "source" field.
I wrote more about the Google archives in a previous post.
Thanks for the discussion.
I couldn’t disagree with you more. Reporters have no business doing “analysis” in a hard news story. Analysis is editorializing. How do you analyze something without expressing your opinion about it? If the reporter is analyzing as well as reporting on the facts, then what need is there of an editorial page?How do you maintain a distinction between the two functions? Hard news stories have traditionally given the facts, the famous five W’s. Analysis comes via editorials. I’ll use a sports analogy since they are much-beloved by guys--the play-by-play announcer gives the facts, the color commentator gives the analysis.In order to avoid the gray areas you mentioned, and the perception of bias, the story could simply have used a more neutral word like “beset” instead of a loaded word like “humbled.” What if the article in question had said “the president, persevering though beset by economic turmoil, etc.” Would that have passed muster? Don’t hold your breath waiting for an “analysis” such as that one in an AP story.I think readers do want a recitation of dry facts in their hard news stories. I know I do. Readership used to be much higher in the days before reporters “analyzed” stories. This is part of the reason why so many people perceive a bias in the media and are turning away from traditional journalism--thousands of such little “analyses” disguised as facts.Mr. Oreskes says, "We certainly meant it as a powerful description of what has happened to Bush, but not as an opinion of whether this is good or bad. To be humbled means to be brought low, the dictionary says. No question his standing, in polls and by other measures (Republicans fleeing from him), has been brought low." How many people think “being brought low” is a good, not a bad, thing? Notice that the original article says that Mr. Bush himself has been humbled, or brought low. In his explanation, Mr. Oreskes says that Mr. Bush’s standing has been brought low. Two different things.By way of analogy, no man was more reviled in England that Winston Churchill in the days before Hitler invaded Poland. Neville Chamberlain was hugely popular. One could say that Churchill’s standing was humbled, but was the man himself brought low? That would be a matter of opinion. Which I believe was the point I set out to make in the first place.Sorry this post is so long, but I have been giving the matter a great deal of thought. Analyzing it, you might say.
I appreciate the thought behind your question. I respectfully disagree, though, with the premise that your hometown newspaper is writing stories without regard for individuals or the community. The stated core values of the Advocate are honesty, respectfulness and fairness. The family that owns the newspaper has a long tradition of helping the community.
Certainly, we're a business that needs to stay profitable to exist. No apologies for that in a capitalist society.
A news story, by definition, generally involves controversy. In this case, a neighbor and the dogs' owners complained about the trooper's actions. We made sure to get his side of what happened. We went to a third-party expert source for another opinion. We invited readers to comment as well. We asked a question with our headline because we thought many would relate to the issue off hitting a stray dog: "What would you do?"
We had no desire to ruin this trooper's credibility or reputation. Based on the responses to the article, I submit we clearly did not. Those posting opinions in support of the trooper are basing those views on the facts as presented in the story.
We try to minimize harm with every story we do, but no newspaper can completely sanitize the news and still seek the unvarnished truth. I emphasize "seek" because we can never say we've achieved that goal.
We have reported many times on the mistreatment of animals in our community that leads to unnecessary euthanizations and car accidents. I pointed to just one recent one in my reply to Piney Woods. We certainly will write about the topic many times again.
Readers connect most, though, with a story like this one. It's real, and it makes them think. Perhaps the greater societal good that arises from this story is a heightened awareness of the need to properly care for pets.
Thanks for the question.
I share your sentiment about the rampant problem with irresponsible pet owners. I am bothered by the high number of animals you see running loose around Victoria. Our editorial board agreed to write on the topic soon. We also covered this issue recently in a story by Aprill Brandon. Click here to read it: http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/...
A stat in the print version, missing from the online version, is that animal control euthanized more than 3,000 dogs and cats last year. That's a disturbing number, particularly given how many strays still on our streets.
Sorry, all, for the delay in responding. I've been running from one meeting to the next today.
Arlene, here's an answer to your question from AP National Editor Michael Oreskes (many thanks to him for such an impressively fast reply):
"We certainly meant it as a powerful description of what has happened to Bush, but not as an opinion of whether this is good or bad. To be humbled means to be brought low, the dictionary says. No question his standing, in polls and by other measures (Republicans fleeing from him), has been brought low."
In terms of my thoughts on the subject, I think good reporters provide context and analysis to any story. Few readers would sit still for a dry recitation of the facts. Certainly, reporters should be fair and balanced with all news story and should avoid editorializing. This approach can drift into gray areas: Context to one person might be bias to another.
Regarding the letters to the editor, that's a technical glitch we'll need to fix in our online presentation.
For those wanting an update on Laila, our reporter spoke with David Pena again tonight by telephone. Mr. Pena reports Laila is doing fine after an initial assessment by the vet, but the dog needs care that migth cost between $165 and $300. He said he appreciated the offers of financial help and provided his cell phone number for us to post. I hesitate to do that, though. If you want his number to make a donation, please e-mail me directly, and I'll give you his number.
For those who wanted to see more of the dogs and their injuries, visit our mycapture photo gallery here.
C'mon, Chris, you know you don't have to run AP articles verbatim. That's a cop-out. Articles are routinely edited for length. The Advocate is responsible for the stories it runs, regardless of their origins. While I have your attention, why are the three letters to the editor posted online today in a single block under the title of the first letter only? Makes it very difficult to find the 2nd and 3rd letters. And yes, I wrote the 2nd letter.
I've passed your message along to the Dallas bureau chief of the Associated Press. The story your reference is by the AP. I'll see what he has to say and add my thoughts to that.
Mr. Cobler,I appreciate your explanation of the Advocates side of reporting this story. However, I think that the VA has failed to see the continued problem in not just its reporting, but the reporting of media accross the country. Stories are continuely written to simply make money for the paper without regard for how it affects the people in the story. I understand that it is a business and it is "journalism", but where is the line drawn for the media in reporting stories that are only news because they involve someone that has high profile job or position and it will make them look bab. How many stories have been printed about other people hitting dogs? Did the staff check to see how many dead or injured dogs and cats are picked up in Victoria or in the County every year? And if so, how many of those were called in by the person that hit the animal? My guess is no. If you did, then that would tend to support what the Trooper did as being something good. My point is that you say the story was reported accurately. That is hard to argue, I agree. But the way the story was reported, tends to imply that the Trooper did something wrong, which also implies that he is not caring. How is it good reporting when the story tries to ruin someone's credablity and reputation with the public that he serves just to sell papers? I question the decsion by the VA to run this story and believe that sometimes a moral decision should be made. This same story could have been written in positive manner that showed what a good guy this Trooper was during a sad situation. I think you would sell alot more papers if you went postive rather that negative on stories. I know you have a tough job, but give it some thought and let me know what you think.
If you "want to limit newspaper opinions to the Viewpoints page," why do I so frequently find comments like the following in your "news" articles? The statement, "The president, humbled by economic turmoil that has darkened the final days of his presidency," was in the Sept. 24 Advocate in an article titled "Iran's leader razzes Bush speech." This is editorializing, not reporting. Saying that the president is "humbled" is an opinion.
Chris, perhaps it's time for an article in the Advocate outlining exactly what dog laws, leash laws, etc. are on the books for the City of Victoria, the County of Victoria, and the State of Texas. Perhaps if more companion animal owners were reminded of their obligations under the law the Advocate might just contribute to more humane and safe homes for these "pets". It might also be interesting to ask law enforcement in the city and county if they actually enforce those laws or if that is left to Animal Control or not done at all.
I'm not sure I follow your comment. We stand by the accuracy of the printed story and photo. The disucssion here is only to elaborate on a story of high community interest. Is there a specific fact in the story you're questioning?
Got it. Newspapers are just blogs in print. Each comment is as valuable as the next. Journalism, in the form of careful writing and discriminating editing, is a dead dog.
We'll try to reach Mr. Pena today for an update on the dogs, although I'm not sure another story is necessary. Only one, Laila, received treatment by a vet. It's safe to assume the dog is recovering fine based on the extent of the injuries we photographed. Of course, I'm no vet. I'll ask our photo editor to post other images he shot Monday afternoon because some have asked about the one we published.
FOLLOWUP: What has become or happened to the dogs as of now, Thursday? I'd contribute $10 to a fund to help with Laila (Layla) medical expenses. Have the Pena's tried any other vets in the area? The one they took Laila to - is one of the most expensive in the city and my regular vet on Main Street charges far less than the one she got treatment at.
Gee if everyone commenting gave $2 she'd be fixed up.
Thanks for your coverage of this, I think the trooper did the right thing. But I wonder wouldn't car insurance cover damages but its a property claim since animals are property?
Don't know about the photo either, Chris. Second thoughts about the story? Put the "bright light" in their eyes and get to the truth! lolMr. Pena's post certainly did not give the impression that he was unhappy with the troopers actions. Or mention their request for funds to vet bills. Given the nature of the comments regarding the "football party", I'm given to dismiss the entire episode as BS of a high order.Best of luck. You've got a thankless job.
I see a comment from a Mr. Pena saying he thinks now that the Advocate stretched the story. I didn't see him say anything about doctoring the photo. Our photo editor, Frank Tilley, already has refuted that claim.
Our reporter talked to Mr. Pena again tonight and got the impression he was having second thoughts about his earlier comments based on the negative comments to the article. She reaffirmed that both the Penas and the neighbor were unhappy with the trooper's actions. The neighbor didn't want to be named in the story, so we did not use his comments. We didn't want to have an anonymous person criticizing the trooper.
After seeing the comment, I e-mailed Mr. Pena and encouraged him to contact me if he wants to assert he was misquoted in any way. I also asked our reporter to talk to him tonight. After that conversation, she repeated that her story was accurate.
Chris: A poster claiming to be the owner of the dogs is the one who actually started the claim. And he implied that the story is "cooked". You might want to investigate that as well. As for the officer...it sounded like he might be from that neighborhood and just doing the neighborly thing. Not the coply thing. Your spin has got you in deep doggy doo-doo...
As I catch up tonight with the many comments to the story, I must point this out:
If you support the trooper, you are basing your opinion on the facts presented in the story in the first place. If we had set out to cast the trooper in a bad light, wouldn't we have omitted or changed those facts? Of course, that's ridiculous. We wanted only to as accurately as possible report what happened and let readers make up their own minds.
Photo editor Frank Tilley posted to the other discussion thread: He absolutely did not alter the photo using PhotoShop or any other way. It is absolutely against our policy to alter news photos. I don't know why someone would spread such an untruth.
In terms of the questions about the placement of this story, the beat death was at the top of the front page above this one. If you want to have a say about what goes on the front page, we encourage you to vote in our daily polls and comment during our 10 a.m. planning meeting. We encourage readers to participate in the decision about what goes on the front page.
Now a murder was not considered more of a community interest? Hell, it actually happen IN the city! Still no one has addressed the extremely tacky action of photoshopping bright blood on the pup. Geez...if you can't trust the news...well nevermind, you really can't....thanks for keeping the evidence alive.
GOOD SHOW CHRIS: What are the VA readers drinking or sniffing to even make these statements? "The article was written clearly to try to stir up more controversy concerning our local law enforcement officers." How could anyone conclude that malarkey? ".. Trooper Dunaway went above and beyond what he was morally and legally obligated to do." AGREED. "..so why was such a huge section of the front page given to this story?" What did that reader want on the front page? If he/she wants a say in what appears where in a paper he/she can go buy/start their own paper."Why are so many people around here so all fired up about what happens to the pets they let roam but wouldn't lift a finger to help a homeless or needy HUMAN?If people can throw a party but can't afford to have their puppies sewed up they can't afford the puppies. Someone mentioned, "They were probably hungry and out roaming the streets looking for FOOD." Most people are smart enough to know that puppies can't get that much nourishment out of empty beer cans.
This doggie story don’t hunt and the homicide played second to this?