This is no place for a personal gripe
Everyone loves to gripe. And the bigger the audience, the more satisfying the gripe.
But as most journalists learn early in their careers, it’s fine to gripe to friends at a party or with co-workers around the coffee pot.
It is never OK to use the public venue of the newspaper to air personal complaints and annoyances.
Not only does such pettiness demean the newspaper, it’s unfair to the person or business against whom the complaint is lodged. That person or business doesn’t have the same power to defend themselves or take a shot back at the newspaper.
Unfortunately, the Tahoe Daily Tribune forgot that lesson Wednesday. In a frivolous column published on the Opinion page, a local restaurant became the target of a personal gripe – specifically about the service and not getting guacamole with an order of fish tacos.
The column referred to a local business by name. As such, it made the reporter and the newspaper look foolish.
Nonetheless, the Tribune published it. I don’t have a good explanation for why we published it. Perhaps we left our common sense at home that day.
Local businesses have the right to expect good customer service from their community newspaper. They have a right to expect fairness from professional journalists who have the obligation to be objective in their evaluations.
Certainly our community expects opinions expressed on the editorial page to be searching, and at times, hard hitting. In the effort to be objective and thorough in presenting issues to the public, there may be times when people or businesses are hurt by the viewpoints expressed on the editorial pages. But that should never be because the writer has a personal gripe to air.
Journalists have the right to use the usual avenues available to everyone else if they have a problem with customer service in a business setting. They, too, can talk with the management, or fill out a comment card and turn it in at the time of the problem.
And they always have the ultimate sanction available to them – to take their business elsewhere.
It is difficult enough to run a profitable business in the Tahoe Basin. Those who take the risk should be admired, not hindered by pettiness and shortsightedness.
For the record, the Tahoe Daily Tribune does not print letters to the editor or stories that complain about a specific person or business unless a law has been broken or the greater good of the community is at stake.
This policy was not established as an attempt to suck up to our advertisers. It was established because the printed word lingers long in memories. A cheap shot printed in a newspaper will be remembered long after the business has changed hands or a person has left town.
Along with the power of the press comes the responsibility. I apologize to the local business mentioned in the column, the waitress who served the Tribune reporter and the community at large. We forgot for a moment that we are a newspaper, not the Better Business Bureau.
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