Local criticism light, so far
Local readers have been far hotter about a photo caption this week misidentifying the Sawatch Range than the Daily’s coverage of Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case. Yes, we know it’s New York Mountain, just one peak. And yes, a caption writer and two copy editors after that missed the mistake. Our heads were hanging as we vowed never to make the mistake again and wrote the correction. It’s also another sign that readers take their news seriously, down to the scenic shots.
By comparison, local criticism of the Daily’s approach to covering the Kobe Bryant episode has been remarkably light.
Oh, there’s the usual clucking from our one-time daily rival, the Vail Trail, for whom the Daily can do no right ever. Best they can do with the biggest story to land in Eagle County in at least a year is to bark from the sidelines? Have at it. Knock yourselves out.
For some, the story is beneath them, though they’ll talk about it, shake their heads at all the media attention and perhaps haven’t quite thought through the implications for government budgets, the testing of our law enforcement and the judicial system, or the impact on lives beyond the accuser and the accused.
The coverage is tough. The alleged crime is rank. The suspect is a national figure, who until now enjoyed a wholesome image. The young woman in fact has had recent upheavals in her life that may well matter to the case. Yikes.
The Daily’s path has been to follow all the tips, wherever they lead. Pursuing the truth seems the fairest course, though most definitely not the easiest. A strategic failure to practice journalism seems neither fair nor courageous, though it does scratch that itch for provincial protectionism and you do get to howl at the big bad Daily for reporting unpopular aspects of the case.
Criticism by Kobe worshippers and the hang-him-now crowd looking in from afar has been at times brutal. Each pole finds nothing but bias in our coverage. Depending on the commentary in this space each day, one or the other or both disapprove of the “biased” opinion, too. Some of the e-mails are vitriolic. But that comes with the territory. Fire away.
The nine of 10 people in our valley who read the print version of the paper have been considerably less vicious so far. That’s surprising in that we’ve pursued leads on the young woman as well as ones that seem to support the case against Bryant. And we’ve gone to court in an effort to see dispatch records that normally are made public for the asking.
There’s little pleasant about practicing journalism in this case. There is lots of room for criticism as we sort through the smoke to try to report accurately on the flame. And, amid the fire, it is hard to see the right way – if there is one.