Why we show ‘bad behavior’ | VailDaily.com

Why we show ‘bad behavior’

Matt Zalaznick

A newspaper’s job is to document the life of a community. This means, we sometimes document – without passing judgment – what some readers consider “bad” or “dangerous” behavior. Editors here occasionally receive complaints when we’ve run photographs of kids skateboarding or riding their bikes without helmets. We’ve been criticized for using “cute” pictures of bears hanging out in gondola cars to illustrate stories about how dangerous bears can be when lured to a home by mismanaged trash. And we sometimes get complaints when we show adults drinking at fundraisers or other events, like Oktoberfest. These readers say we’re being a bad influence, encouraging kids not to wear helmets or – by printing photos of adults happily holding champagne glasses – showing the community’s young people that drinking often is a part of adults’ parties. I have to admit, I don’t quite understand the complaints about the bear photos, but they’re sure to be lodged again next time we print a photo of a bear crawling into a hot tub alongside a list of how people can keep bears from breaking into their homes. When compiling each day’s news stories and photos, who we’re “influencing” or how we may be “influencing” them, is not much of a consideration. Our main intent to is give readers a picture of their community and if, on a particular day, kids weren’t wearing bike helmets and adults were drinking, so be it. That’s the fact of how you’re neighbors were behaving. That doesn’t mean we won’t write stories quoting doctors who, for instance, believe ski helmets can protect skiers from serious injury. We’ve done that in the past and will do so in the future. A criticism that would force us to do some soul-searching would be one that accused us of not showing bears strolling around on somebody’s back deck. Then we could be accused of living in a bubble, of covering the news with the bizarre intent of pretending there aren’t bears in the mountains or that adults don’t drink or that people don’t sometimes do dumb things. What we will do, however, is report when dangerous behavior has gotten someone in trouble or seriously injured. When we write about crashes, that’s why whether the driver was drunk is a prominent part of the story; that’s why we always try to find if the passengers were wearing seatbelts; that’s why anytime we write about a motorcycle wreck, we’ll try to tell you whether the rider was wearing a helmet. And we’ll write those bear stories about folks who leave their trash outside too long and get fined by the cops. All of this happens in our community and it’s our job to cover the ugliness and irresponsibility along with the feel-good stories. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado

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