Letters to the Editor

Ask the Editor: Common practice is explained

Q: The Tribune defamed Paso Robles High School by associating our school with the act of (the alleged) attempted felony murder by Steven Smith. His act of violence had NOTHING to do with PRHS.

Your disregard for the high school community where I work was an insult to the hard work and dedication of staff, students and parents. A more professional approach would have been to report the story for what it was, an act of violence. Shame on you.

— Stan Cooper, teacher, Paso Robles High School

A: We understand your reaction and agree that the alleged crime had nothing to do with the high school. But Steven Smith was well known in the community as an assistant coach at the high school, and that’s why we believe it was important to mention.

It is common practice for us to include a person’s background — personal and work — in reporting such high-profile crimes.

For that reason, our initial story on the incident linked the alleged shooter to the high school in both the first paragraph and the main headline, which read: “Alleged shooter is Paso High coach.’’

After that, however, we were careful to distance the high school from the shooting, except when we needed to provide more details about Smith’s voluntary coach duties as the school district provided them and to note his previous role as a student athlete there.

Our second-day main headline was “Family puzzled by Paso shooting,’’ and our third-day main headline was “Murder in man’s mind, police say.’’ Secondary headlines on both those days also didn’t mention the high school.

Q: I logged onto sanluisobispo.com Monday morning (Nov. 9) at 6:36 and nearly all of the local stories seemed to be datelined either Saturday the 7th or Sunday the 8th and were ones I’d already read, in effect being 24 to 48 hours old. The Tribune is perhaps our best source of local news, but what’s up with recycled coverage this late into the news cycle?

— David E. Holmes

A: The date you see at the top of the story is the date that the story was posted to the Web site. So, for example, if we posted the stories in Monday’s Tribune at 11:45 p.m. Sunday, which is likely the case here, all those stories that are new for Monday morning would have had Sunday’s date, Online Editor Christine Janocko said.

Also, fresh columns show up in the commentary space below the main news, not in the main news section.

That said, we typically post few breaking news items over the weekend due to the fact that there is little major news to report and we have minimal staff. As the week begins, that changes significantly and you see many news updates throughout the day and evening.

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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