The hope is that headline — with the implication that we were wrong! — makes everybody happy.
But if everyone’s mad at us, we must be doing something right. There’s some comfort in that. Otherwise, the last couple of weeks have been anything but comfortable here at the Rappahannock News.
It all started with an Oct. 21 front-page news story about how the Virginia Farm Bureau was opposed to possible new EPA regulations in the Chesapeake watershed. We then heard from a number of puzzled farmers saying that the Farm Bureau did not represent their views, and therefore the story was distorted.
So the following week we prominently published a long letter from one of these dissenting farmers. In addition, that week’s editorial in this spot tried to put things in some kind of historical, thought-provoking perspective.
Then the cowpie really hit the fan.
Both sides of this emotionally divisive issue were now angry. One loyal reader even telephoned to say that our bias was clearly revealed simply in the fact that the editorial referred to the “War Between the States” as the “Civil War.” It’s like conflating “First Manassas” with the “First Battle of Bull Run.” One appellation is preferred by Rebels, the other by Yankees.
Editorial bias was also apparently evident in the picture chosen to illustrate the front-page story on the 7th District congressional race — a man dressed up in a chicken costume protesting Rep. Eric Cantor’s refusal to debate his two opponents. Republicans, understandably, did not like being portrayed as chickens. But Democrats and Tea Party-ers, too, objected, saying the “frivolous” photo suggested their campaigns to unseat Cantor were not being taken seriously.
Similarly, a news story on a visiting physician giving local citizens “the lowdown” on the nation’s new health care law brought vocal criticism from Rappahannock residents who oppose the new law. The newspaper should have sought out and reported such opposing views, they said. What the newspaper story, in retrospect, should have done was at least note that the Fredericksburg doctor was here partly at the invitation of some local Democrats.
Finally, an unusually perceptive reader pointed to our lack of sensitivity in running a front-page picture of a Halloween dressmaker showing off a gown in what appeared to be a family graveyard. “What if those were your ancestors buried there?” he asked.