Karen Peterson: Readers put in their 2 cents, sometimes more

EXECUTIVE EDITOROctober 20, 2013 

A few questions and answers from last week’s reader emails. (We’ll excuse their misspellings.)

From Reader Barbara, who wrote regarding Wednesday’s story on the death of 17-year-old Jalon Bea. Police said he was killed accidentally by a friend playing around with a gun he believed was not loaded.

Her subject line: “Article on teen killing”

“While it was a ‘play time’ gone wrong, it certainly did not warrant a front page story. … But what was worse is that fact that on Page 10, a small article about a Metal of Honor recipient from our state. THAT is front page news.

“You play around with guns and someone is going to get hurt, and in this case, dead.

“I’m totally disappointed in the TNT for the coverage in this article on the youth. Who would you rather have covering your back — this teen or the Metal of Honor recipient?”

My answer: “A friend accidently killing a friend, especially at this young age, is front-page news in our minds.

“We have run four front-page stories on Capt. Swenson’s actions and on his receiving this honor. The most recent A1 story was on Tuesday, the day he received the medal. That’s why we ran the follow-up inside with a picture. Our paper has a strong commitment to coverage of the military, and I don’t think we shortchanged this story or the hundreds of others we run in a given year.

“In addition, we don’t see it as a competition between these stories. We have room on our front page for four or five stories, so we could have put them both there. We decided not to.

“Thanks for your note.”

From Reader Chuck, who wrote regarding a brief story we ran a week ago about free health services and classes offered by the Mexican Consulate in Seattle. Classes were in Spanish. Reporter Alexis Krell wrote the brief. She also speaks Spanish.

At the end of her story, Krell went an extra step and wrote: “Para mayor informacin sobre la XIII Semana Binacional de Salud, comuníquese al Departamento de Comunidades del Consulado de México al nmero 206-448-8938, o visite la pgina consulmex.sre.gob.mx/seattle.”

Chuck wrote: “Karen, in the brief section, page A12, on Friday Oct 11, 2013, you might have opened a can of worms, as there are other nationalities that do not speak English. Maybe people from Viet Nam want to know more about the mayor’s race. Just my thoughts about being fair to all your readers.”

I wrote Chuck: “Thanks for writing. We were experimenting on that one.

“Surely Spanish is the next most popular language, so I’m not sure we have a problem there. My greater concern would be that few people who don’t speak English are going to pick up our paper anyway, so we’re probably not making wise use of space by doing that.”

I still appreciate Krell’s attention to our readers’ needs, and I appreciate having a reporter with foreign language skills. She has used them before to communicate with Spanish speakers who call the newsroom or who might be sources for her stories.

From Reader John, who wrote about our front-page headline Friday: “Government activates; ‘no winners’ in capital.”

His subject line: “capital vs. capitol.”

“the New Trib certainly provides much content for grade and high school bad grammar and incorrect spelling classes!

“check you headline in today’s paper.................who writes these?

My response: “John, actually in this case we were correct. The city that is the seat of government is the capital. The legislative building is the capitol.”

I sent him a ruling by grammarist.com: “As a noun, capital refers to (1) a city that serves as a center of government, (2) wealth in the form of money or property, and (3) a capital letter ... Capitol has two very specific definitions (outside ancient Rome): (1) a U.S. state legislature building, and (2) the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. State capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. If you’re not talking about any of these capitol buildings, then the word you want is probably capital.”

I thanked John for helping to keep us honest. He wrote back: “you are right, I concede and won’t bug you on this one.”

Hmmm. Makes me wonder what he’s saving for the next one.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com

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