Friday, January 25, 2008

Readers question story play

We had several readers challenge us today on how we played the news of Joan Perry's death. The community lost a tireless champion of the environment and a longtime activist for Anna Maria Island.

Reporter Carl Nudi captured that in a feature story obituary, which we published today on Page 1C, the Local cover, in our Bradenton edition. In the Lakewood Ranch edition, the story and photograph were printed on Page 3C. Mrs. Perry, 68, had been married to Jerry Perry for 43 years. He told Carl: "She loved a good fight and loved a good cause. One of those good causes was fighting for the planet."

What troubled some readers, however, was how that compared to another recent story. Just a week ago, another woman died in a traffic accident in Lakewood Ranch. Ann Hopp, 64, was killed in a car crash at the intersection of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and The Masters Avenue. The crash shut down the major intersection for hours.

Reporter Richard Dymond worked the story all day. He met with George Hopp, the victim’s husband of nearly 30 years, at their home that evening. Mr. Hopp, recalling his wife’s smile and British accent, told Richard she was "vibrant, funny and wonderful… She could meet someone on an airplane and be friends in a second.”

This story and photograph were published on 1A last Saturday in the Lakewood Ranch Herald, because the tragedy was the local news of the day there. But we also published it on 1A in the Bradenton Herald, where it probably should have been in the local section. That’s why we have two editions of the newspaper -– to emphasize local news better for each.

One longtime reader said in her message today, “I’ve lived in this area my whole entire life. It doesn’t make sense to me that this lady who has done so much in this county got so much less coverage in the Bradenton newspaper than the woman who lived in Lakewood Ranch. Was that why -– because she lived in Lakewood Ranch?”

Our unequivocal answer: Of course not. So much of our story play is determined by what else is going on that day. But the challenge is a fair one. Both Ann Hopp and Joan Perry will be missed by many. But each was better known in their own community, and the Herald should have reflected that better in how the stories were played.


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