Depending on how many pages we publish each week, you’ll typically find somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 words in any given issue of the Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times, or Geauga Times Courier.
Sometimes more, sometimes less.
A vast majority of those words we get right – both in spelling and intended meaning. But every so often, we fail miserably and get a few of those words very, very wrong.
Such was the case recently when we took some unnecessary liberty and attempted to introduce some humor in a headline that appeared on one of our police blotter items. We’ve done that a few times before and heard positive feedback from many of you who appreciated a little chuckle while scanning the otherwise serious news headlines.
This was not one of those times and the feedback we received was not positive.
It was loud, direct, and absolutely justified.
While we still believe there is a time and a place to bring a little humor and satire to a community newspaper like ours, we abused that privilege by making light of an otherwise serious situation involving an individual clearly in the middle of a mental health emergency.
Believe it or not, we have checks and balances in place intended to prevent “mistakes” like that from making it into print, but sometimes even those fail.
We realize that we fell short in the eyes of many of you. For what it’s worth, we absolutely share your sentiment.
It certainly was not our finest moment.
As editor, it’s ultimately my responsibility to prevent things like that from happening. And when they do – regardless of the rhyme or reason – it’s my responsibility to acknowledge where we failed and to take steps to assure our readers that we won’t make that same mistake again.
I know we can do better.
Fortunately, this newspaper has a long track record of supporting the local mental health community and we also have a reputation of being a champion of issues and causes that further advance mental health issues that are important to so many of you. As a writer, editor, and publisher, I have made an effort to use my bully pulpit to do the same.
I could point to the special series of stories we published earlier this year in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.
I could extoll the virtues of our in-depth, investigative coverage of the Geauga County Mental Health Board and I could talk for hours about our efforts to keep you informed about that board’s failures to serve and protect some of our most vulnerable residents suffering from mental health issues.
But none of that amounts to a hill of beans when we follow it up by doing something that essentially puts us in the same category as those mental health board members that we’ve been so critical of in the past several weeks.
Frankly, that’s not the kind of company that I want myself – or this newspaper – to keep.
Our goal has always been to publish the best community newspaper as possible and despite our recent stumble, we remain committed to doing just that.
I can’t tell you we won’t make mistakes in the future, but I can surely guarantee that we shall strive to do better.
One story at a time.
One page at a time.
One issue at a time.
- David Gustafson, Editor-in-Chief