Back when I first joined the ranks of journalism, I firmly believed in the tenet of telling both sides. It was, I was taught, the best way to stay unbiased, to let the reader decide.
But the more reporting I did, the more I realized the fallacy of this concept. The world does not fall so neatly into two sides, black or white. There are many shades of grays. It’s less like seeing a yin and yang and more like looking through a prism.
That idea is on my mind this month because to some, our June issue may appear a bit schizophrenic, especially the news section. As you might expect, much of our news is centered around what’s happening to aquatics during what some are calling the country’s near economic collapse.
The news is not all bad. One news article points out that despite the downturn, many projects are still moving forward. Right next to that is an item about communities so desperate for money they are using prison volunteers to do park and rec work. Turn to the next articles and the seeming contradictions continue. But those articles tell the story of what’s happening right now in aquatics: The news is not black and white. It is gray.
What is clear from our reporting and anecdotal evidence is that the country’s dire economic straits are shutting down pools and putting aquatics professionals out of work. But even that is not as black and white as it seems. Look for the gray in this story and you’ll see that the downturn often is the catalyst for closures that have long been in the works.
In article after article about local reports of pool closures, it’s pointed out that pools rely on hundreds of thousands in subsidies. With communities trying to decide how to fund schools, or keep streets passable, that kind of subsidy is no longer palatable.
At the same time, many of the nation’s 300,000 or so public pools have been woefully neglected for years, meaning they have persistent maintenance problems that make them all the more costly to operate. Couple that with the extra burden VGB Act compliance is putting on aquatics and you’ve got a recipe for mass facility closures.
How bad is it? Other than anecdotal reports gleaned from the Web and other sources, it’s hard to say. But I’ve been following such closures on my Twitter feed and urge professionals to follow it, if only so they can stay up on what’s happening with their industry in these extraordinarily difficult times.
Additionally, we’ve teamed up with our sister publication, Pool & Spa News, to find out how many facilities are being forced to close or delay opening due to VGB Act compliance. With your help, we hope to have a running list on our Website soon.
In these desperate times, operators must become advocates for their facilities. If local news reports about community members banding together to save pools are any indication, they will have many allies — allies who recognize that aquatics is a matter of public safety, not mere recreation. It’s great to have such clear-headed community support, but operators need to be the ones making these arguments. If they wait for the community, it could be too late.
So check back with aquaticsintl.com often and avail yourself of tools such as my Twitter feed to stay in the know and build community. Together, we can come out the other side of this downturn stronger, smarter and safer than before.