A friend of mine brought something to my attention yesterday. He presented to me a copy of yesterday’s Austin American-Stateman, our local newspaper, and asked me to read a few choice articles for my feedback. What I saw disturbed me. The articles themselves weren’t necessarily disturbing; it was the editorial choice of which article to place on which page I found disturbing.
Below is the letter I submitted to the AAS editorial staff:
Subject: Lead story misguidance (Nov 1 edition)
As I read the “A” section of the November 1, 2003 edition I noticed something that disturbed me. On page A4 there was a small, dryly-written and poorly-reported wire article titled “Supervirus fuels bioterror debate.” To me, and I’m sure to most of your readership and the citizens of the Austin area, this is major news. It affects us all. It deserves to be on the front page.
Instead, on page A1, roughly 1/3 of the page is devoted to a local-color piece called “A new spin on breakdancing,” which though it is light-hearted and reflects the atmosphere of the community which you serve, it does not bear more newsworthyness than the “supervirus” piece on A4.
Are there any reasons why this occurred? What was the editorial logic that set up this sort of transposition of stories? This, to me, reflects a moment of poor judgment on the part of the editorial staff; when the spectre of epidemic infection of modified strains of “mousepox” looms on the horizon, I, and I’m sure most everyone here, would care very little about breakdancing.
Please adhere to the principles of responsible journalism. As our local newspaper, you are one of the watchers on the tower. To most of us, hard news wins-out over fluff.
Thank you for your time:
So. Am I wrong in feeling this way?