This is a Letter to the Editor style post in response to two articles in the Mountain Xpress. The first was published in the print edition December 5: No easy answers: Lexington Avenue’s uncertain future by David Forbes. The second was published online December 12: Merchants protest Dec. 5 Lexington Avenue story by Caitlin Byrd.
I used to work in the production department for a daily, independently owned and published newspaper. We frequently heard the kinds of concerns expressed in Ms. Byard’s article and we had to tread carefully. I listened carefully to the in-house editorial discussions about what to do when advertisers expressed concerns about publicity they perceived as negative.
First and foremost, a newspaper has to be honest to its readers, otherwise readers will feel cheated and look elsewhere, which ultimately hurts the newspaper’s bottom line and diminishes the sense of community that a quality newspaper provides. A reader who is less likely to trust the editorial content is also less likely to trust the advertisements in such a newspaper. For an extreme example: Ask yourself how much you trust the advertisements in the tabloids in the checkout line. About as much as their exposé story of ‘Bat Boy’? A newspaper with integrity is a better place for consumers to make choices about where to spend their dollars. Pulling advertising because of a ‘negative’ story hurts the advertiser and the consumer more than than the newspaper.
Can an article on increased crime lead to less crime in the future? Because of the respect that the XPress has in our community and it’s continued ability to start constructive dialog (such as this one), I think so. A negative story can increase and maintain the integrity of a newspaper, leading to positive change for the entire community. The Xpress has that legitimacy because it doesn’t look the other way when confronted with an uglier face of reality than we would all like to see. I put a high value on that.