Many of us in the Spokesman-Review newsroom receive daily telephone calls and emails from readers about a variety of issues, ranging from late or missed delivery of the morning edition and complaints about specific stories, columns or overall coverage to suggestions for stories and requests for coverage. We value the feedback and story tips and we know it is important to keep open the lines of communication with our readers.
A couple of phone calls I received this week have remained in my thoughts because of the nature of the reader complaints. On Memorial Day, we published photographs of every Spokane-area military personnel who died while serving either in Afghanistan and Iraq. We may be the only newspaper in the country who has done this consistently each Memorial Day for the past several years. A 92-year-old veteran called me on Tuesday to tell me he and his friends were highly insulted because we didn't include any photographs of World War II servicemen who died in that epic struggle. The reader did not hold back in his criticism of us and accused us of ignoring that generation of Americans and Canadians who gave their lives in the fight to preserve our freedom.
A couple days later, I received a second call about our coverage of WWII veterans, this time from a retired politician. He blasted us for ignoring the arrival of 89 veterans on one of the Honor Flights when they returned to Spokane International Airport the other evening. The reader said it's another example of why we are the “most liberal newspaper” in the country. “Even Harry Truman said that.” Actually, Truman called us one of the worst papers in the country at that time, not the most liberal, but that's another story. I explained to the caller that there are several Honor Flights each year taking WWII veterans on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the war monuments and other sights and that we simply don't have the resources to cover every one of them.
I pointed out to both of our critics that we actually focus on more substantial stories about war veterans throughout the course of a normal year. I also pointed out that last Nov. 11, we published a special 72-page section devoted to in-depth stories about many veterans, including quite a number of WWII survivors. I also explained that we routinely do stories on key anniversary dates such as Pearl Harbor Day, D-Day and Veterans Day. It often seems that no matter how much we write about WWII, it never seems to be enough.
We mean no disrespect to those who served in the miltary or who are currently doing so. We certainly recognize our society's eternal debt to those who have and continue to defend us on several fronts. Despite the criticism we receive from time to time about our military coverage in general, I remain immensely proud of the good work that my colleagues produce.
I am frequently reminded by readers that those who serve in the military are the ones who guarantee us a free press and the right to report as we see fit. While that is certainly true, it's also a bit more complex than that, in my view, if for no other reason than a different kind of fight for press freedom continues every day in this country in the courts and halls of government. We take none of our freedom for granted.
Not all of our readers this week complained, of course. One wrote me an email to inform me that she spent three hours on Sunday reading the paper because there was so much good content in it.
Finally, a nice gentlemen passed me on the street on Thursday and said, “Love your red socks, man.” So there's that.