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Old 06-03-2006   #21
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 42
I usually stay off these threads because they seem to spin outta control pretty fast, but as a newspaper reporter and someone "who knows the newspaper business" I want to respond. The first issue here is that someone tragically passed away while enjoying the river. I didn't know Adam but many people did and emotions are running high and sensativity is at a climax. As reporters we know this is the situation coming into sensative material like this and we need to take special and diligent care to get the names and facts straight before we print them. In all stories, but especially ones of such tragic nature, we get only one chance to get the names and facts straight -- and the consequences if we don't can be high as seen on this thread. If reporters get "it" wrong, there is no excuse. Every time I print a mistake, I gladly write the correction for the next addition... some reporters have to write many corrections throughout a career, the best ones only write a few, but we all get things wrong from time to time, no matter how great our skill and knowledge on a subject. I can tell you that every time I have printed an error, it was by mistake and often times isn't noticed until I get the first e-mail or call from a reader explaining my lapse. Every time I feel bad to have failed the reader, the boss and most importnatly, the people offended by the misinformation. Unfortunatley, in our business, you can't go back and try again... all you can do is make sure to get it right the next time around.

I don't know this reporter at the Herald, nor do I know their staffing situation on weekends, but I would put money down that he feels bad to have made this mistake. I also bet he is not enjoying the e-mails from so many angry people and I can guarentee he will never get white water information wrong again. With that said, all of us boaters can tell that he didn't understand what he was writng about and that is a problem for the Herald. As reporters, we need to make sure that what we print is factually correct... it's obvious this reporter didn't follow that basic guiding principle. He responded to Baird's letter by saying the point was to tell readers there is a lot of confusion among people about the difficulty of the run... when in reality, there is no confusion whatsoever. The only person who was confused about the difficulty level of Val. was the reporter himself -- evidenced by the blaring errors in the article.

In addition, the reporter should've told Baird that a correction/clarification would be running and when and where in the paper he could find it -- standard procedure at every newspaper I have worked at. Considering the sensative nature of this story, it seems he could of had more awareness to the situation. If he is green behind the ears and fresh outta college, I hope this is a wake-up call for him that Tact can go a long way to calming stoked nerves and keeping subscriptions from being canceled.

For all of you who have been offended by this, take Basil's advice. Write a letter to the editor that embodies more tact and CORRECT factual information to the Herald readers. Truth and the exchange of factual information is what we're all hoping to spread in the first place. Write a letter to the editor explaining the truth about the creek, about Adam, about kayaking. The readers will see it. Survey after survey has shown the Letters section of any newspaper is more well read than most the articles printed. In the end, you guys trust each other more than you trust us.

And to Vor - it's obvious that you are either a staffer at the Herald or a close friend/associate of a staffer there. I would guess the former though, judging by your flawless grammar and crisp writing style which just smells of newspaper training and in the detailed information you know about the DPD's relationship with the Herald, the paper's staffing situations on weekends and the knowledge you have of what information was made available to the media about Adam and when. As a fellow journalist (or friend of one) I hope you can realize the true level of pain the boating community feels for a fallen friend. Coming on here and prophetically telling everyone they are ignorant about how newspapers work and telling them they're not justified in being angry over a mistake that was printed about their friend is obtuse at best. When we make mistakes in our profession we have to live up to fallout that often follows them...

To be cliche, if you can't stand the heat - get outta the kitchen.

For all who are suffering through this loss, I am sorry. My thoughts are with you and Adam's family at this time.


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Old 06-03-2006   #22
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well... weirdly interesting

Tom Sluis IS in fact the City Desk Editor, at least the last time I spoke to him, which was ...let's see....last Thursday... May 24th at my son's school picnic, at which his daughter was climbing on my back, in between chasing my son all over the place. and oh yeah... everyone who lives here in D-go town knows full and well that DPD limits what the DH publishes in it's Police Blotter, or should I call it a tacit agreement not to scare the tourists?

However... the point was and is that a boater was lost and they got some facts wrong... it happens, it's a newspaper

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Old 06-03-2006   #23
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
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Time to reflect...

Here's my observation about the numerous posts about the error-filled Herald report... A reporter who had no understanding of whitewater wrote an article about this tragedy under deadline pressure with limited information and a copyeditor made the errors worse by totally screwing up the river rating info. Boaters are understandably emotional about the loss of a comrade, and emotionally overreacting to this weak news piece.

Write a letter to the editor expressing your sadness at the loss of an apparently well-loved kayaker, and your dissappointment with the errors in the news article, but try to understand that reporters cannot be experts in every subject they cover. Thru the mistakes in the article, the reporter (and his editor) have learned a lot about this subject and won't make the same mistakes again. Boaters shouldn't let their sorrow turn to anger at the Herald. They screwed up, but they are human. Don't expect the media, particularly a smalltown daily newspaper, to be the NY Times. It ain't gonna happen. I for one, think that the Herald does a very good job for a small newpaper in a small market. They're not perfect, but they are usually very good. This article was an exception.

Mourn your comrade, but try to be understanding of the REALITY that not everyone has your river knowledge.

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Old 06-03-2006   #24
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J-Rock, thanks for the post. Nicely done. Now I'm done. Be safe everyone

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Old 06-06-2006   #25
Join Date: Jun 2006
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My condolences go out to the entire rafting community, and particularly to Adam's family and friends. Whether a novice or expert, anyone's death on the river is a tragedy.

I was off last week when the news broke, and I don't work weekends, but there are a few quick points I would like to offer:
- We try our best, but yes, the paper does occasionally screw up.
- Yes, a mistake was made in editing.
- We will have a correction in tomorrow's paper on Class 4 versus Class 6.
- I used to be the city editor, but the title was changed. I'm now the assignment editor.

Again, I'm sorry for the death. I have two kids and know that as good Durangoans, they may want to try kayaking someday. Am I concerned? Of course. Will they be educated on the risks and how to deal with them? You bet. Do I know that sometimes all the preparation in the world can't account for every contingency? Yes, that's life.

Please, if you have any questions or concerns, send me an e-mail,


Tom Sluis
Assignment editor
The Durango Herald
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Old 06-06-2006   #26
Join Date: Oct 2003
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My condolences go out to the entire rafting community
Rafting community? WTF?
Like it or not, all of us are the result of a sexual act.
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Old 06-06-2006   #27
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Standing up and apologizing is appreciated. You also now have access to a forum that will try to help you substantiate whitewater stories in the future.


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