A question that crops up every so often tops the January emailbag. Here goes, from Stan Davis of Haw River.
I have noticed in your editorials that there is never a name claiming ownership of the written piece. It makes things seem as if the opinions represented speak for everyone at The Times News. Is this the case? When readers have their opinions published they are required to leave their name. Take ownership of your ideas, and attach YOUR name to what YOU write.
MY TAKE: Editorials published in the Times-News are indeed considered the stance by the newspaper itself but never purports to speak for every single person who works in our office — including, most especially, me. That’s why editorials take on the tone of a collective “we.” They are not intended to be the sole property of one individual at the Times-News. In fact, the editorials come from a variety of sources within our company or other newspapers of similar editorial philosophy — largely libertarian and decidedly conservative on fiscal matters. I, for example, edit the page and often disagree with what our editorials say. Sometimes I agree and on some occasions I simply go, “eh.” Other newspaper staffers have input on what we publish or write ourselves for that spot.
Columns, on the other hand, are personal opinions and contain bylines and usually a photo.
The middle thumb
This question came from reader Jane Lewis regarding our Saturday Opinion Page feature, THUMBS UP and THUMBS DOWN.
Shouldn’t there be a thumbs sideways as well as up and down? I have had this thought on several Saturdays and today’s Thumbs Down to Neil Bromilow’s retirement is the reason I am writing. Shouldn’t a person beginning a well-earned retirement deserve a Thumbs Up no matter how much that person will be missed?
MY TAKE: Absolutely. There have been a few times when we’ve waggled the editorial Thumb a bit. Perhaps a few more sideways Thumbs would be appropriate.
That said, Elon is really, really going to miss Mr. Bromilow. The work on campus has been phenomenal and almost nonstop over the past decade and change.
Obituaries continued to …
I hear pretty often from Nancy Thomas of Burlington, always with good-natured suggestion and great ideas for how we can improve. She calls herself “Pest,” but that’s hardly the case. Here’s the latest.
It is PEST again!
Thank you for putting the line about “See More Obituaries on page … ” when they run over to another page, as I “suggested” some time ago.
One of my many “hats” at the Clinic is to check the obits every morning, and knowing that there may be a “continued” line on the bottom of the page, even I have missed it twice in the last few days. One of the “continueds” I discovered that night when I had the opportunity to read the rest of the paper and just saw additional obits on another page! So, surely some (many?) of those people who are scanning names must be missing the continuations.
Do you think ”See More Obits….” might be better in the MIDDLE of the page and reversed — white on black?
I know of one particular example of a “continued on another page” obituary in the Greensboro paper that was missed by the cousin of the deceased, so he obviously did not show up for the funeral, etc.
MY TAKE: We will continue to look for ways to make this stand out a little more so readers will notice. I may have Linda Bowden, our graphics and design expert, take a crack at it. A few years ago, when we had four section each day, the obituary page could continue to the next page and seldom had to jump into an entirely different section. I wish those old days were back. I’m sure most of our readers feel the same way.
And thanks again, Mrs. Thomas.
Need to get out more
A reader I hear from a lot posed this question after Burlington City Council bounced around thoughts about speed limits at a meeting in January.
Madison, where have the members of the city council been, there are a lot of streets in the City of Burlington that have speed limits above 35 MPH
MY TAKE: I told Jack that based on my experience, members of council don’t get out much. I asked one about some year-old signage downtown touting something that is supposedly “Coming soon!” This elected official wasn’t familiar with the sign on the corner of Front and Main.
Newt in the crosshairs
Frequent writer Warren Pegram of Snow Camp took us to task for an editorial cartoon a few weeks aback about presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and the stories concerning his wives, ex-wives, mistresses and thoughts about open marriage.
I believe the Times News owes readers an apology for the Newt and past political cartoon today. The issue of Newt suggesting an ‘open marriage’ while in bed with a mistress is unproven and therefore not subject to treatment as though it were. … As South Carolina has proven the news media has fallen so far in reputation that such antics are probably a healthy part of the votes for Newt.
MY TAKE: I wrote back to Mr. Pegram and told him that editorial cartoons are drawn in a provocative and broad way for comic effect, to make an impact or both. They don’t aspire to be any more than commentary on things in the news not actual news reporting. And the issues involving Gingrich were indeed in the news and fair game for commentary.
Now, whether these kinds of stories actually harm candidates is an interesting question. It never harmed Bill Clinton. My hunch is that people who like a candidate will overlook certain shortcomings. If they don’t like a candidate, such peccadilloes become major subjects for criticism and derision.
That’s why covering politics is so tricky.
It’s a small world after all
Got this from Herb Berkowitz, a day after I published his column about Buddy Holly’s death on the Jan. 31 Opinion Page. It moved via McClatchy Tribune, a wire service we use. He was identified as a public relations specialist who lives in Wilmington who is a lifelong Buddy Holly fan. I recognized Herb’s name but didn’t immediately match it to how I knew him until the following day when he sent a thank-you email. Herb stopped by our office a few weeks back as a representative with the Pope Education Center. We had a great conversation.
Now I feel I know him even better, especially after our email correspondence.
Thank you for running my Buddy Holly tribute piece. I hope you enjoyed it.
That was his first email. After I responded, he sent this back.
My office is a shrine to rock-n-roll: posters, neon, memorabilia, autographs, records, a jukebox (1953 Seeburg), a collection of record players, stereos and, transistor radios, etc. The trouble is: At my age the mind says rock, the body says stop.
Have a great day.
MY TAKE: I knew I should’ve introduced him to Jay Ashley and showed him Jay’s office.
The bigger picture
And finally we had some problems in late 2011 and early this year with photo reproduction on our Good News page, which is published on Monday. Sometimes when group shots are submitted by readers they need to be published in as large a format as we can manage simply so readers can actually see who’s in the photo.
The issue came up regarding a photo submitted of the reunion for the Williams High School class of 1961.
This is the first email I received from Gwen McIntyre of Burlington about the photo.
I have written you before with concerns and we were on a very positive note when explanations were all said and done. … I like reading all the “high school reunion” celebrations that are published especially the ones from the 50s. I like to see who in the photo that I know. Lots of times I know anywhere from 1-10 familiar names and faces of course depending on the community. As the early 60 graduates are becoming the focus of 50 year reunions it draws my interest to read every name and scan every face. Sometimes the faces aren’t as clear but when finding the name it all comes together. In the Time News that was published on Monday, Dec. 5 the 1961 class of Walter Williams High School was recognized. With this publication there wasn’t a single name under the photo to identify the graduates and the photo was not enlarged enough to identify one single person. What in the world happened? The only way anyone knew who was in the photo were the individuals themselves. My husband was one of those graduates and he couldn’t tell me who the others were as the images were so small. We understand the names were submitted along with a larger image of the class. This is a once in a lifetime event. I think it should be reprinted for the paper with the names added and a better image. I was very disappointed with this publication and I wasn’t even one of the honorees. Was this a flaw in your department of “Good News” or just what happened?
I wrote her back immediately. Here’s what I said.
“Part of the problem was that the person who submitted the photo could not identify the people in it. They only gave us a list of people that didn’t match the people in the picture. Brent decided it was best to not run names that did not match the photo.
The second problem, the size, was created by two things: The photo was shot from pretty far away and us not allowing enough space to publish the photo larger. We’re working on the latter. It might mean items are published a little later than normal, but it would be worth it to get better images in the newspaper.
Again, thanks for writing and your concerns.”
A couple of weeks ago we published the photo again, larger this time. We also included the names, even though they did not match the photo. I told our editors that it’s important to get the names of people in our captions when the information is available (often it’s not). And in group photos with this many people it’s always wise to publish the image as large as possible.
Here’s what she wrote back.
“I want to thank the Times News for resubmitting the photo that was in the paper today of the Williams High School Class of 1961. It was much better. Although it was such a large attendance, I admit the names would have been hard to list as trying to follow the people in the photo by rows. Alphabetical was about the best that could have been done. Thanks again for the resubmission.
MY TAKE: We do aim to please, especially on the Good News page. Hopefully we avoid this problem in the future.