Ask the Editor: Compelled to show the cost

The pelican photos evoked the emotion of the Gulf oil disaster

June 6, 2010 

Compelling photos can tell a story — and move us emotionally — in powerful ways. After Tribune copy editor Jennifer Robillard noticed Thursday that the Associated Press had distributed some of the most disturbing wildlife images to date from the Gulf Coast, we knew we should play them large so readers could clearly see the impact of the thick brown oil along the Louisiana shoreline.

Many other newspapers nationwide took the same tack.

“After weeks of tracking images of tar balls, water sheens and miles of yellow boom, these photos offered a distinct elevation in impact, better than any before had,’’ said Presentation Editor Joe Tarica, who designed Friday’s front page.

“We took a few of the most dramatic shots and tried them in various top-page layouts, before settling on the sorrowful shot of the pelican at the brink of death,’’ he said. “It is as powerful a depiction of the environmental disaster as you will see.”

Q: I just had to share the good feeling I had when reading the article by Cynthia Lambert and Nick Wilson, “First the Dream, Then the Team.” The story (published Thursday) was about the remodeling of a home by Cal Poly students and community members as part of The Poly House project led by Cal Poly professor Liz Schlemer. What a great accomplishment for all involved! … I also liked the front page placement of this article. We need more stories like this that inform us in some depth about the great things citizens are doing for the community. Stories like this one can stir our imagination and our ability to take action on possibilities for making this a better world.

— Pam Stein

A: We wholeheartedly agree. That’s why we regularly strive to highlight those who do good deeds through both news stories like this one and commentaries on our editorial page such as Unsung Heroes. The latter feature showcases individuals who unselfishly apply their energy and skills to lighten the burden of others. We launched Unsung Heroes a few years ago during Thanksgiving week and this year expanded it to a monthly editorial, written by Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane. If you would like to nominate an unsung hero, please contact us at

Q: I’m really impressed with your new online crime site! What a terrific service to the public it is. I spent considerable time navigating around the site and found it easy to use and very informative. Are Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo County among the agencies whose data you hope to add?

— Robert Olson, Nipomo

A: We’re delighted that you find our new crime section useful. Yes, Arroyo Grande and unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County covered by the Sheriff’s Department are the agencies we are hoping will coordinate with us to provide this information for their areas. (We’re currently working with the Morro Bay Police Department.) If you haven’t yet checked out our comprehensive crime site, go to and click on the crime banner at the top of the page. You’ll learn about crimes being reported in your neighborhood, local crime trends, a blog that notes unusual calls received by area police departments, a photo gallery of individuals who’ve been arrested (most on suspicion of committing felonies) and deeper coverage of several crime topics.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our Web site or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA, 93406-0112, or e-mail me at

Sandra Duerr is the executive editor of The Tribune.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service