Let’s be clear!
No one wants to be misquoted, mischaracterized or have their comments taken out of context. And I take great pains to ensure that my opinions (whether agreed with or not) are as clear as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of them being misconstrued. Last April I wrote a commentary titled “She lived in Shame.” In that piece I used a facetious follow-on to demonstrate just how misleading a headline or a title can be to a story, it read: “During a recent interview, Molly Muggins told reporters that her husband of 18 years was forced to move their entire family to neighboring Shame, Ohio, after he lost his job as assistant manager of the Chillicothe Wal-Mart.”The point of the commentary was to illustrate how creating provocative headlines and sub-heads have become an art form. That many news organizations routinely write misleading captions or take written or spoken comments out of context in order to pique the readers’ interests (or perhaps even to steer readers toward a particular point of view – oh my!). But in doing so, the headline writer runs the risk of changing the author’s intent, which is exactly what happened to me last week.In the six years I’ve lived in the valley it’s been my experience that the Vail Daily’s editor, Don Rogers, is both straightforward and fair. I’ve read letters to the editor that accuse Don (and the Daily) of leaning right, leaning left and everywhere in between. While one may not always agree with the opinions expressed by this paper, I believe Don (and the Daily) report the news accurately and do their best to keep opinions on the op-ed pages – which is as it should be. But now I have a bone to pick with the Daily. I don’t know about the other commentary writers, but I write my own titles to my commentaries. And of the almost 200 commentaries I’ve written to date, Don Rogers has changed my proposed title on perhaps a half-dozen occasions at most. For that I’m most appreciative, because just as chapters of a book are titled to frame the ensuing chapter, my commentary titles frame the topic I’m writing about.But here’s the rub, the original title of last week’s commentary (as written by me) was to have been: “The magic word.” I wrote that title specifically to convey to the reader that there is a magic word in life, and that word is “attitude.” The vehicle I used to illustrate my point was the less than stellar wait-service in many of the valley’s eateries.However, when I picked up the paper last Thursday, I discovered that the acting editor, Alex Miller, changed my title to “Locals need attitude adjustment,” making it appear that the subject of my commentary was locals with bad attitudes, which completely reframed my message. During my years as a columnist for the Daily, I’ve written 15 specific commentaries featuring the service of the valley’s police, fire and EMT departments, the Resource Center, HAATS, The sheriff’s Victims’ Advocacy Program, etc. In addition, those commentaries recognized more than 100 of the valley’s businesses, organizations and/or individuals as providers of outstanding or superior service. I believed then, as I believe now, that the Vail Valley is THE best place on the planet to live. If I didn’t feel that way about the valley AND its citizens, I would move to the north shore of Kauai.But I guess it was inevitable that sooner or later someone at the Daily would edit my words or reframe my message so as to significantly change its meaning, which is precisely what acting editor Alex Miller did when he rewrote my title for last Thursday’s commentary. I stand by what I wrote last week because I believe many restaurants in the valley could use an attitude adjustment, but I must also be clear that it’s not my style to carte blanche impugn or denigrate any segment of our community.After reading the edited title, I sent an e-mail to Don Rogers (which was automatically forwarded to assistant editor Alex Miller while Don was on vacation) to advise him that the title change was not only misleading but it established absolutely the wrong context for what I was commenting about. The following was Alex’ response: “Butch that was my call. Don is on vacation. I didn’t think “the magic word” described the column’s topic adequately. Feel free to call me if you’d like to discuss it further.”Truth be known, I don’t care to discuss the matter with Alex or anyone else. Rather I want to be clear with the readership of my commentaries. To wit: I have nothing against the valley’s “locals” (read: restaurant wait staffs) who are not much different than young people anywhere, including those who could use that attitude adjustment. However, it does disturb me when an assistant editor attempts to reframe or change the perspective of what I write about.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com. His column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado
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