E-N criticized in this space, now for some praise

As with many newspaper readers, I start my day with coffee and the Express-News. The Thursday paper (the day this column is written) was a superb blend of news, pathos, information, the singular biennial treat of the Olympic Games and the incomparable annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

It had a mix of regional, national and international news that good local papers are supposed to bring to readers. I sometimes criticize reporters and editors here, pointing out errors and taste issues, as I see them. I think it’s important to praise journalists here when appropriate. The Thursday paper was a role model for journalism.

Horrible coincidences are part of life and part of the news, and reporter Eva Ruth Moravec captured the horror of losing a child suddenly — twice last week. She wrote a Page 1 story Thursday about Victor Adame, 18, a local soldier who had driven all the way from Virginia to see his family between assignments. He spoke by cell phone with his wife at 6:06 the night before Valentine’s Day and died about 90 minutes later when he apparently rear-ended a fuel truck on Interstate 10, just 25 miles from home.

Two days earlier, Moravec had another Page 1 piece, about 17-year-old Jesse Yanez, who tripped over a curb and was run over and killed by a pickup truck a few hours after Adame died. Adding to the tragedy, Yanez was on his way to his father’s home, a father with whom he only recently connected.

Here’s another coincidence, not as tragic as burying your child, but did you notice reporter Craig Kapitan’s vivid account, also Thursday, of the murder trial in Victoria of Joe Estrada, who just turned 20? He was convicted later that day of capital murder in the killing of restaurateur Viola Barrios, who was killed by an arrow shot into her head. Prosecutors Wednesday called as an expert witness Gary Gassman, whose family owns an archery business.

On the preceding page was an obituary for Gassman’s mother, Alma, who, the headline said, “helped operate her family’s archery shop.” She was 97 and, a grandson said, “It was just her time to go.” You can’t say the same about the two boys-about-to-become-men who died last weekend.

From election coverage to Tiger Woods’ return to the public eye to the CPS Energy lawsuit settlement to gripping reads, the Thursday paper was full of information interesting for both visiting and local readers.

Just to keep us humble, however, a reader from Fredericksburg, Chris Berger, assailed the Express-News in a letter to the editor for too many stories about animal abuse, closing with: “You disgust me.”

Another letter writer, retired Army Master Sgt. Patrick R. Conley and Vietnam War vet, chided editors for a Monday Page 1 headline, “Civilians killed during intensive fight for city,” about the U.S./Afghan assault on Marjah, a Taliban stronghold. “A lot of good people die,” Conley wrote. “That is one reason it is called war.”

And Mavis Caudill, who said she “is not related to … or acquainted with” any of the participants, complained that a Feb. 10 story, “Students put brains to test in competition,” about the Academic WorldQuest, had too much information, including a photo, of the Reagan High School scholars and too little about the winning team – Alex Parma, Erica Dietzel, Sean Larson and Garrett Shuffield from Communications Arts High School in the Northside ISD.

She’s right. I hope mentioning it here will help provide balance.

This column was published in the San Antonio Express-News on February 21, 2010.

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