The wonders of the newspaper biz

The wonders of the newspaper biz
As you've probably determined by now, Kay Hansen isn't very happy with me.

She has that right, I guess, just as she has a right to express her frustrations in a letter to the editor.

There are some issues, however, that she is ignoring. She chooses to not give these items the attention they deserve, because to recognize them as being true would make her critique of the Plain Talk and me more difficult.


Kay first called me shortly after we published the 2007 Clay County Fair Achievement Days results on Aug. 24. And, as you may conclude by reading her letter, she was not happy.

"After having seen what I feel was extremely disappointing coverage of the county fair, its lack of pictures, poor coverage of actual events and lack of fair insert I contacted you by phone to express my disappointment," she writes.

Thanks to the efforts of our local Extension office, we devoted four full pages to the fair on Aug. 24. We published the names of all purple, blue and red ribbon winners in every gamut of Achievements Days 4-H exhibitions, from beef and photography, to swine and horticulture and beyond.

We had room to sprinkle in a few photos among the results: shots from the demolition derby, the mud races, the fashion review and the lawn mower races.

We also published the names and placings of all of the county fair's open class division results.

The Aug. 24 issue didn't include the names of the grand and reserve champion winners. We were expecting to receive those results in time for publication in our Aug. 31 edition. I shared that information with Kay in our phone conversation, and indicated that I hoped it would also provide an opportunity to publish photos of grand and reserve champion winners that I had taken at the fair.

So we waited. Right up to our deadline for the Aug. 31 Plain Talk, when the Clay County Extension Office told us that they were unable to find the listings of the champions.

"Onto anger. Several weeks went by without the promised 'fair coverage.' No photos, no article, nothing!" Kay writes.

Naturally, she called again. I told her the truth. We had been told that the grand and reserve champion results could not be found, I said.

Kay's reply? I was to blame. I was now doubly guilty of not only failing to publish those results, but also being responsible for the fact that they couldn't be found so we therefore were unable to publish them.

In her letter, she fails to mention that I told her I had hoped that conversations I had earlier that day with individuals closely involved with the fair would provide a solution to this dilemma. I was hoping they, perhaps, might know who typed those results. Perhaps they were still on that individual's computer. Perhaps the typist had printed them but had not told any of the Extension staff where they were filed.

At any rate, I was hopeful those results would be found. I suppose I could have told Kay that everything would be fine and dandy, but I opted, instead, to be honest with her.

I told her that the chances of publishing both the photos and the grand and reserve results of the fair nearly a month after the event likely would be slim. After all, the second "hunt" for the results wasn't launched until mid-September.

And I never promised Kay anything, although she would like you to believe I did. I told her that we were already stretched to our limits covering current news. A court hearing for David Lykken. A groundbreaking ceremony for Vermillion's new city hall. The outbreak of a parasitic illness.

Not to mention the host of other news we try to provide every week on a regular basis. Sesquicentennial Highlights. Chamber Chat. Club reports. Obituaries, engagements and wedding write-ups. School news. Sports. Commentary. And so on.

Although we do our work with no single person in mind, we hope that every week, we individually meet the needs of all of our readers. Somehow, Kay took offense when, during our conversation, I said I was trying to satisfy her.

As she notes in her letter, I have delighted, frustrated, and angered her. Her response? To tell our readers that she doesn't trust me. I don't follow through on my promises. I'm just a snake in the grass, a charlatan.

This whole experience has reminded me of the wonders of the newspaper business. If you're an editor or reporter, you have a unique opportunity to interact with people with wide, varying backgrounds, education and interests. Many of them understand the limitations of a weekly newspaper, and are grateful when we are able to give attention to issues they find to be of particular importance.

On occasion, we interact with overly sensitive people. They are demanding. They expect things right now, even when those items are beyond our control.

This is all part of the newspaper business. It's what makes this a challenging field; there's so much to do, in so little time, to hopefully bring a top-notch product to our readers.

Do readers become unhappy with us? Sometimes. Nearly everyone who has a problem with us is eventually satisfied. We make sure of that.

Nearly everyone.

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