One thing about a newspaper, the product is out there every day for all to see, to read and to criticize. It’s the essence of the business, and we wouldn’t change it.
We encourage criticism. We prefer comments to be reasoned and constructive, but we’ll take what we get knowing this is not a perfect world. Certainly, The Daily Times isn’t perfect, and we run corrections and clarifications to rectify what we can when appropriate. Criticism out of left field (or right field in deference to hypersensitivity in today’s prickly political environment) can at times make even an incoherent point worthy of reflection.
Sometimes criticisms are logical and well intentioned but based on a misunderstanding of what a newspaper is. Case in point, the front-page photograph published Tuesday.
The photo shows a young woman leaping off a rock cliff at The Sinks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the same edition, Page 3A contains a story about a woman injured after falling below Laurel Falls. Sixteen emergency responders carried the woman 1.3 miles to the trailhead.
The photo and a story elicited a critical response from a reader: “How can you have an article about an injury at Laurel Falls but not mention how dangerous diving at The Sinks is? That is just irresponsible journalism on your part!”
To clarify, although the caption referred to the woman diving, we were mistaken in that regard. She clearly has her arms extended from her sides for balance as she descends feet first toward the clear, cool water.
As a GSMNP spokesperson emphasizes in Thursday’s edition on Page 3A, diving in park waters is especially dangerous. Yes, the photo did catch park officials’ attention. In fact, they go so far as to discourage all types of water recreation in the park.
We would expect nothing less. In this vast wilderness, danger is a part of life. The thrill of engaging this lush environment on its all-natural turf involves risk, and it is human nature to take on a challenge. That’s why a park ranger’s mantra has to be safety first.
They take it seriously enough to record the failures. Here are the top five causes of death in the park: motor vehicle accidents (32 percent), plane crashes (15 percent), drownings (13 percent), natural causes (10 percent), motorcycle accidents (6 percent). There indeed have been drownings at the The Sinks. Of the 57 recorded park drownings, nine happened at The Sinks, or 16 percent.
But should we not publish photographs of motor vehicles on park roads or planes flying over the mountain peaks without warning of the danger? Do newspapers take too much for granted in assuming readers’ practical judgment?
We’re a newspaper, not a nanny broadsheet. Newspapers record life as it happens. The amazing and the mundane. The informative and the ordinary. The surprising and the wonderful. Death, too, when the inevitable happens.
So here’s a fair warning, if you need one. Open these pages at your own risk. You just might find one of the scariest creations ever devised by mankind — a portal to the truth with no warning labels required.