A while back, this exchange occurred between one of us and a sibling:
"Did you read the Reader Advocate column this morning?"
"I don't read her any more. All she does is tell people to f--- off."
Turns out we weren't the only ones with that perception. This morning, Connie Coyne's column addressed a reader's concern that she is insensitive to reader concerns. Did we say addressed? Well, more like blew off. She's not a shill for the Trib, she said. All reader advocates are accused of bias, she said, backing up her theory with sympathetic quotes from counterparts at other papers. Not true, we think. We both felt that her predecessor was open minded, even when we didn't agree with her conclusions.
You know what would have been nice? Stats. One thing we like about the advocate's column are the numbers ("5,889 readers complained about the sticky ads this week," that kind of thing). How about a comparison of the column inches devoted to explaining why concerns are legitimate vs. those explaining why they're not? Perhaps it's a misperception, but Coyne's tone seems rather dismissive of lay readers at times. It may be unavoidable in today's environment that "World Ending Tomorrow" is bumped to A12 by "Local Girl Has Cute Bunny," but at least acknowledge why reasonable readers are troubled by that before telling them that they're wrong.
"I listen to all the complaints, but I draw the line at dignifying some stuff - UFO reports, anger because someone's husband was arrested and the story was in the paper or vitriolic racist rants - by talking about them in a column," she wrote. It's not what we don't see in the column that bothers us; it's what we do see. It makes sense to reserve column space for more important issues (although an occasional week-in-the-life would give us a better understanding of the job). Ironically, the very fact that the advocate writes about an issue probably means that she deems it to be legitimate. We would just prefer that recognition to be less subtle.