Ask the Editor: The value of reporting on accidents

Many of our readers are interested in knowing the details of local vehicle crashes

sduerr@thetribunenews.comSeptember 27, 2009 

I truly believe you are doing your best to manage limited resources in a challenging business environment. That is why it is surprising to me that you choose to put so much effort into vehicle accidents (fatality or injury alike). These stories occupy prime page space and are written by a local reporter who could have covered another story. Perhaps a weekly abbreviated police blotter-type summary would free up your valuable resources to report on what else is happening in the community. I suggest leaving the real-time crash action to TV and radio news outlets and focusing on what you do better.

— John Laferriere, Grover Beach

A: Clearly, you’re an engaged, thoughtful reader. We appreciate that.

Daily newspapers have long covered major accidents because most readers are keenly interested in learning about them, wondering if they know the people involved, or curious as to what caused the massive traffic tie-up they were caught in.

If we don’t cover such accidents, readers typically call to find out why not! Indeed, we’ve found that accidents and court stories tend to generate the most reader traffic on our Web site, www.SanLuisObispo.com.

We used to produce a daily police blotter report inside the Local section — it’s more timely than a weekly one — but have cut back on that as a way to manage reduced resources.

But for those interested in reading all incident reports and seeing where they occur, we provide crime maps online from three local police departments — Atascadero, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. We’re working with the other four city police departments — as well as the Sheriff’s Department — to include theirs, too. As we get them up on SanLuisObispo.com, I’ll let you know in this column.

Q: A+ article (about strangers who helped save a man who suffered a heart attack while stuck in traffic on Highway 101) — thanks, Tribune! The vivid details and information make us feel like we were there on the scene.

— SLOCommitted (commented on our Web site)

A: Thanks much for your praise. This particular story has generated more than a dozen positive comments on our Web site — and even more through personal messages and Letters to the Editor.

We believe it is as important to cover these heart-lifting stories that inspire us and celebrate accomplishments — heroic and otherwise — as it is to cover more heart-wrenching news. So we strive to include these positive stories regularly in our mix.

As Tribune reporter Nick Wilson, who wrote this particular story, commented: “The outpouring of interest in the article and direct, heartfelt comments from George Allison himself (who suffered the heart attack) on our Web site make my job a rewarding one.”

Q: My kids asked whether Baby Blues, Rubes and Bizarro could be added to the Sunday color comics section. Thanks for considering this.

— Jeffrey M. Bloom

A: I’m delighted to hear that your children are reading our comics!

I wish we could add the three requested to our Sunday comics section, but we purchase that section as a group buy with many other newspapers. As a result, everyone must approve of changes, making the process more difficult.

By comparison, we decide which comics to use daily on our own. We’ll keep your children’s interests in mind, however, should we have an opportunity to change the Sunday lineup.

Do you have a question about our news decisions or news operation? Please write to me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA, 93406-0112, or e-mail me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com.

Sandra Duerr is the executive editor of The Tribune.

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