Editorial: Our story-telling strategy

Behind the scenes: In recent years we have taken a different tack in putting together our daily state, nation and world report.

Because readers are exposed to such news 24/7 through TV and the Internet, our goal is to cut through the clutter — summarizing the key news, then using photos, graphics, profiles, analyses and other stories to provide as many perspectives as possible in a relatively condensed report.

Case in point: Tuesday’s package on medical marijuana. As you recall, the Obama administration Monday told federal authorities not to arrest or prosecute users and suppliers in states where medical marijuana is allowed under law. Because news reports on this issue initially surfaced late Sunday, we decided to put it on A3, referring to it off the front page.

Copy editor Jennifer Robillard selected a San Francisco Chronicle story detailing reaction to President Barack Obama’s rules and the likely impact, along with two photos and two other short stories. For readers seeking a quick synopsis, she added a one-paragraph news recap. One of the shorter stories was written by Tribune reporter Nick Wilson, sharing the reaction of former Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch; the second told how a judge barred Los Angeles from enforcing a moratorium on medical marijuana clinics.

“A major news story that’s been circulating all day begs for a different approach in the newspaper; the basics sometimes just aren’t enough,’’ Robillard said.

“I sought to augment the primary marijuana policy news with opinions from some of those within our state who would be affected the most: medical marijuana advocates. I also chose the story for its look ahead to how cases could be handled.

“Whenever considering wire stories, I look for ones that delve deeper into the topic to explain the story behind the story and why readers should care.”

Q: Your extensive coverage of the health care issue in The Sunday Tribune Oct. 18 represents one of the best works of journalism I’ve seen during the nearly eight years I’ve been reading your newspaper.

Here’s why I think it was exceptional:

1. The depth of the coverage was befitting of a much larger, more fully staffed newspaper.

2. The five local people you chose to interview were an excellent representation of our county.

3. As a retired engineer and businessman, I appreciate hard data, and the “Who’s insured In SLO County” chart was just that. I have never seen this information presented anywhere else.

4. And perhaps most important — nowhere in the articles was I able to detect the biases of your writers.

Congratulations to The Tribune and the reporters who put together this feature story. You have served our community well.

— Robert Olson, Arroyo Grande

A: Thanks much for taking the time to write, citing so specifically why you found our health care package informative. Our goal in undertaking this project was to give readers a deeper understanding of our county’s uninsured and to relay how residents from various walks of life think they’ll be affected by Congressional plans for reform. Senior reporter Sally Connell suggested the idea, and senior reporter Bob Cuddy and Enterprise Editor Julie Lynem helped produce the package. Lynem led the team effort.

We patterned our approach after the “Faces of the Economy’’ special report that we published in July, where we shared how residents from nine different businesses were affected by the recession.

We will continue to spotlight important topical issues like these through the eyes of local residents. Please send topic ideas to me at the address below.

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.