D.R.: The truth with Tipsline | VailDaily.com

D.R.: The truth with Tipsline

Don Rogers

How seriously do you take Tipsline comments? Not very, I think. And you shouldn’t.

I wonder a little, though, after a discussion last week with some local government types. A couple of themn said they believed that many readers take these comments as gospel.

They might be scaring themselves. We’re blessed with a relatively high community IQ here, even with our loudmouth dummies, and we have those, too.

I don’t think the feature is highly read because readers believe the callers are doing anything more than hollering out their opinions about this, that and the other.

The folks frustrated with dogs ” off leash and pooping. The bicyclists frustrated with the motorists. Vice versa. Drivers going too fast or too slow on Highway 6 near Arrowhead. Roundabouts. Sometimes the snowboarder-vs.-skier argument slides in there, during winter. Loud neighbors.

That’s one set of callers. They have their everyday issues to get off their chests. And that’s fine.

The government junkies and rank partisans make up another set. Their targeted government ” county, a town, school district, you name it ” can do nothing right. Sometimes these callers make excellent points. More often, they’re just ranting, and the fact of their failure to identify themselves does render most of their points moot. If you think you have a real issue, step up and be counted. The politicians and we pundits put our names on the line. There’s a certain credibility that comes with that sort of accountability, I agree.

But I ” personally as well as professionally ” believe it’s a bad idea to muzzle critics. Even ones afraid to identify themselves. Government or establishment figures should be able to take criticism, consider other ideas and keep even somewhat obnoxious channels open. Let’s debate ideas, have our ears close to the street even when the gossip is utter nonsense, and correct it when necessary.

Remember, I and others in the Vail Daily newsroom catch as much crap as anyone. I welcome it, myself. Mainly because I know I’ve gotten under someone’s skin and inspired them to think a little bit about their own position if they take the time and energy to get after mine.

There’s another group, one even I can’t stand. This one is made up of bigots, people who would throw their personal poison darts in a public setting, seeking revenge, acting out of jealousy, bearing grudges born in gutters. It’s a shame these folks live in our valley, think the uncharitable things they do, and have the gall to express them.

But yes, they call, too. These are the calls whose transcripts we delete on sight. These are the ones that bother me when we screw up and one gets into print. And these are the injustices remembered forever ” and frequently exaggerated ” by the critics.

But I had not heard anyone seriously assert that readers take the comments as serious expressons of fact, as opposed to opinion. Opinions are like …, well, you know. Everyone has one.

Fortunately, with a feature that appears in the COMMENT section and represents often cranky calls from folks who don’t leave their names, I’m pretty darn sure that the overwhelming tide of readers understands this.

When at least some critics profess not to believe the news that journalists make an effort to vet, it’s awfully hard to imagine them swallowing Tipsline blurbs as fact.

Doesn’t mean they don’t make for interesting reading. Or keep people from dialing up and participating in the public discussion, however high or low they go.

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