Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I always dreaded the phone calls I’d receive when a controversial story appeared with my byline. However, I quickly learned it
wasn’t the story that got people in a huff. After these callers finished ranting about how I’d sensationalized or misrepresented the issue, I’d ask this simple question: “Did you read the story?”
More often than not, the answer was, “No.” Rather, it was the photos or the headline of the story that had gotten them so irate. They hadn’t even gotten past the first paragraph.
What really burned me up is that as a reporter, I had nothing to do with the headlines or the photos. Those were decided by my editors. I have to say, there were times I was just as irate as some of those callers about their choices.
Now I’m the editor and I do the headline writing and the photo choosing. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you out there who have seen the stark cover of our October issue, or paged inside to our Special Report are ready to call or write with a few choice words of your own. To be sure, the images are provocative — some might say sensational.
I’m aware of that, as is my staff, which helped come up with the images. In fact, we debated, as we often do, about the best way to illustrate this important report that details the dangers of indoor air quality. It’s an issue we think the industry needs to heed. We also knew that as a trade journal, Aquatics International does not go out to the general public.
With all of that in mind, we rejected the standard sunny photos of patrons in an indoor facility and used an image that conveys the same dire warnings as the report itself.
As Tom Griffiths so aptly puts it, air quality could well be the “next wave of litigation against facility operators.” To understand why, you need to read Rin-rin Yu’s in-depth article Air Sickness. Like all of our important reports, it not only examines the problem, but also gives you information to help solve it.
So if the cover got your attention, and the image of patrons in gas masks makes you want to know what’s going on here, then we did our job — we got you to pay attention to a matter you shouldn’t ignore. But we can’t make you read the story. That job is up to you.
Just do me one favor: Before you call or write, read the story first.