Ask the Editor: Your input helps us do a better job

Our goal is to cover important news developments and hold officials accountable

sduerr@thetribunenews.comDecember 20, 2009 

As a former boss used to say, there are no problems — only opportunities. And we’ve had plenty of those this past year!

As 2009 draws to a close, I’d like to take this time to thank all of our faithful readers for your steadfast belief in our mission, and for those who’ve written to complain or extend your appreciation for our coverage.

While it’s never easy to receive a barrage of criticism, it is instructive to understand your point of view — just as I hope it’s useful for you to understand how and why we make our news decisions.

I welcome the give-and-take. And in recent weeks, as we’ve condensed the Monday and Tuesday editions, we’ve been especially comforted by your mostly positive reaction. We’ve made these cutbacks reluctantly because of the tough economic times and the changing environment in which newspapers nationwide operate.

Clearly, we’re not perfect. And we can’t cover — and honestly, never have been able to cover — all of the issues, events and other news that occur in our county. No newspaper could. So we make choices, trying to ensure that we cover the most important developments and that we hold public officials accountable.

Consider some of the ways we did that this past year:

Bob Cuddy’s dogged reporting and pursuit of information under state open records laws enabled readers to learn of the unprofessional conduct that led to the firing of the county’s top two administrators.

Sally Connell told readers about the CHP captain found asleep in his car on a rural roadside, triggering allegations of special treatment by law enforcement. The officer was later demoted and charged with a misdemeanor of driving under the influence. The CHP investigated the matter and denied that he received special treatment.

And it was through Connell’s reporting on Stevie Mac, former owner of the SLO Blues baseball team, that his financial problems became apparent. Mac was sentenced in April to 32 months in state prison on felony charges of writing bad checks related to the team.

Equally as important, our staff continued to publish insightful projects that illuminated relevant, top issues. Among them:

• A three-part series on convicted murderer Rex Krebs by Pat Pemberton and Julie Lynem offered deep insight into his background, the two men most responsible for his capture and a look at how safe the city of San Luis Obispo is today, 10 years after Krebs’ capture.

• A four-part series on solar energy by David Sneed revealed how proposed solar plants could turn SLO County into a nationwide pioneer and shared the estimated economic benefits and environmental problems associated with them.

• Melanie Cleveland and Lynem continued to assess the recession’s impact on local residents, from the real estate and banking industries’ problems to developers, lenders and others filing for bankruptcy.

Looking ahead, our news staff will strive to keep focusing on the issues and stories that matter most to you. Undoubtedly, the state’s budget crisis will continue to challenge Cal Poly, Cuesta College, local school districts and local governments. And there will be dozens of local elections, to name just two ongoing stories.

You can count on us to cover these developments and, through our Editorial Board, to share our insight and opinions.

For our part, we ask that you join in this dialogue. Keep sharing your news tips, asking your questions, submitting your Letters to the Editor and holding us accountable.

Your engagement helps us to do our job better.

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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