2008-05-02 / Letters

For Shame,For Shame

Dear Editor,

For Shame…For Shame...

A newspaper's headline is a special place. It's where the editors alert their readers to the most significant issue of that particular day.

For the headline of April 11, the editors of The Wave could have focused community attention on a cause for celebration, "Local Nominated As Air Force General" or they might have used their headline to tell the readership about a serious local problem, "DBP Residents Drowning In Water Debit."

Instead, The Wave's editors chose to use a page from the National Enquirer playbook, marrying inflammatory words, "Charge 'Censorship' By BCHS Principal" with a cheeky illustration of a young woman, her "naughty bits" invitingly exposed! The accompanying article by Nicholas Briano matched it's headline in tastelessness.

At issue is a disagreement between school administrators and a graduating senior who has contributed several possibly objectionable drawings to his yearbook.

But rather than go for fairness and balance in his reporting, Mr. Briano took the low road already plowed by the headline, continuing to tilt the playing field in favor of the student. In the lead paragraph we learn that the student has become "…a victim of censorship." That's it! No qualification, no room for an alternate view. It's got to be true because Mr. Briano's source was the student and his parents!

When he finally gets around to presenting the alternate view, Mr. Briano adopts a less partisan tone, paraphrasing a Department of Education spokesperson with the words "…any principal reserves the right to hold material from the yearbook, should he or she believe that the material is offensive." He might have said that the principal has "…a responsibility, indeed a duty to keep objectionable material from the year book." But no, that would have tended to balance the reporting.

Then, Mr. Briano resumes his position as advocate for the offended teen, quoting his description of the princicontinued pal as "…throwing a

hissy fit." Again,

that's it! No supporting source - hearsay journalism at its very best! Off the front page, the article continues with its onesided picture of the issue, apparently sourced solely from the student and his mother. And lest we forget about the high quality art at issue, The Wave adds two more examples of the student's naughty but this time not too nudie illustrations.

The Wave and its editors have a long, well-earned reputation for excellence to uphold. So it's deeply disappointing to see them resort to provocative journalism in order to sell newspapers. There's no putting the genie back in the bottle. The ill-conceived headline and its accompanying article, poorly sourced and badly written, will remain a stain on the Wave's masthead. But some level of redemption can be attained through a follow up article, one that's carefully sourced and written, one that employs fairness and balance, one that shows respect for the rights and the duties of all parties concerned.

When can we expect to see this article?

JAMES P. LONG

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