An open letter to a critic

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

Last week, a member of our news staff went to take a photograph. The person in charge there accosted her with negative comments about the newspaper. Among her statements: Michele Gerlach doesn’t care anything about this community.

The newspaper’s representative did a great job of deflecting the criticism and getting to the core complaint. The complainer had her feelings hurt. Turns out that she was mad at the world and making pronouncements about me because she once sent us a photograph that appeared in the newspaper in black in white. So I thought perhaps I’d explain to her why that happens.

Our press is a big ol’ complicated piece of machinery. For a photograph to appear in color, a page must go through four units of the press: a black, red, blue and yellow one. It’s called process color. In any section we print, we are limited to printing color photographs on the front, back, inside front, and inside back pages.

If your photograph doesn’t appear in color, it doesn’t mean we don’t like you or “don’t care anything about the community,” it means that we have absolute limits on color placement.

I suspect the complainer also thinks her program should get more publicity. First, I’d offer as a hint that fussing at the nice person who showed up to give you free publicity is not a good way to get someone to come back and give you more publicity. As my momma is fond of saying, you catch more flies with honey.

Secondly, if you count everyone on each of our shifts, we have 17 full-time employees and about 10 part-time employees. Only three of those devote all of their time to news; the others help us keep track of all that’s happening in the community, but also are responsible for selling advertising, bookkeeping, keeping the presses running, and ensuring that the finished products that come out of our pressroom (newspapers not just in Andalusia, but also in Troy, Atmore, Brewton, Elba, Graceville and Enterprise), with all of the pieces inserted. In any given week, they handle more than 100,000 “parts” of those seven newspapers. All of our employees are great people, but to the best of my knowledge, not a single one of them is psychic.

By that, I mean if you don’t see something covered in the newspaper, it’s probably because we didn’t know it was happening. Those three folks who devote their days to news and I answer cell phones, texts and emails almost 24-7. We often sacrifice our weekends and holidays to cover news. If you want coverage, please call us. We can’t always make it to your event, but we’re always willing to work something out with you to provide coverage.

To the woman whose feelings were hurt because she made an assumption about our processes, I sincerely apologize.

You may criticize our work, say you don’t like us, or choose not to read our products. But please don’t go ‘round saying any of us at the newspaper don’t care about the community. We work too hard and too long to prove that we do.