Balance isn’t just about numbers

Sunday, September 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dear Reader:

I owe an apology to a reader who called last week to complain about the Missourian’s coverage of Hickman High School.

Or, I should say, lack of coverage.

I didn’t get her name, unfortunately, because I got my back up when she accused the Missourian of unfair coverage of Rock Bridge over its cross-town neighbor. Rather than listen, I started to argue, and the conversation didn’t get very far.

She was upset about Tuesday’s newspaper: a feature photo package on auditions for “Fiddler on the Roof” and a profile of a Bruins volleyball player. The woman wanted more balance. We don’t actually count stories, I said. She said we should.

I didn’t think that was such a good idea. After all, reporters just follow the news, right? If the news happens to take me to Rock Bridge more often, then so be it, or so the argument might go. The logic began to nag at me.

Here’s where I think my caller is correct:

Many of the stories we do about the high schools are features about interesting people or programs. It’s fair to say there might be just as many at one school as another.

And so I asked the Missourian’s chief librarian, Nina Johnson, for a count.

For the record: Since Aug. 1, there have been two articles in the news sections of the Missourian on Rock Bridge and one on Hickman. There have been 36 Bruins sports stories and 23 Kewpies reports.

Here’s the asterisk: the Rock Bridge football team. My, what a team. No. 1 in the state, with a trip to Sin City to boot. Hickman’s fate hasn’t been so kind. One win, three losses. So there should be more stories about the Bruins’ excellent season.

There are other possible factors. Everything from the availability of a source to the schedule or even competence of a beat reporter. I haven’t peered down those alleys. I think the caller made her point, and that’s enough. I doubt there will ever be equal counts. But I suspect there are a few more interesting stories to find at that school on Providence Road and Business Loop 70.

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