It is one thing to kill the messenger, another when it kills itself. Seattle Times local-news editor Joan Deutsch was among those wringing their hands

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Paper Tigers

Sexpresso deserved less-steamy play, says Times.

It is one thing to kill the messenger, another when it kills itself. Seattle Times local-news editor Joan Deutsch was among those wringing their hands over the paper's recent Page One placement of a story about scantily clad baristas - Amy Roe's "sexpresso" story that we all read. "The lesson learned for me," Deutsch is quoted as saying in editor Mike Fancher's column, "is that placing the story on A1 had such impact that it deeply offended certain readers." A photo of one young boots-and-shorts-clad woman - less revealing than a little black dress - was called porn by one reader; others said they hid it from their children's eyes. "In hindsight," said the chastened Deutsch, "I don't think the story was significant enough to take that risk of alienating those readers." News editor Mike Stanton jointly capitulated: "It didn't have to be on Page One, and after listening to the deep hurt and disappointment some readers felt, I wouldn't put it out there if we had it to do over again." L'affaire espresso left me pondering two things: Why it is that newspapers so often kowtow to a few cranky readers, and why more editors don't take the tack of Captain Bill, a legendary earlier Times news editor who always sailed into the wind. When some called to bitch about stories or placement, he quietly listened, then calmly advised, "Ma'm, if you don't stop complaining, we're going to have to cancel your subscription."

 
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