Broad strokes and ill-advised decisions | SierraSun.com

Broad strokes and ill-advised decisions

Jamie Bate

Other than the recent coal issue, the drowning of George Sommerdorf Jr. on Donner Lake a week ago has spurred about as much discussion as I’ve seen in the Sierra Sun for some time.

Take a glance at the opposite page and you’ll see what I mean.

The discourse has been varied, broad strokes have been used and accurate and not-so accurate observations have been made.

For starters, the three readers who took the time to either call the paper or write a letter about a photo we ran on page two of Monday’s Sierra Sun had valid points. They questioned my decision to run a photo along with a profile of a Truckee resident. The photo was that of a man wearing hockey skates and holding a hockey stick standing on a frozen area of Donner Lake.

What bothered the readers, however, was that on page one of the same edition was the story about Sommerdorf’s fall through the ice.

Without going into the minutiae of how the page two photo ended up running in the paper, I understand how many readers may have felt it was insensitive. For that I take responsibility and apologize for the decision.

Beyond that, there were statements made by columnists and others regarding the Sierra Sun and Reno Gazette Journal’s articles about the ice and ice skating on Donner Lake. Those articles appeared prior to Sommerdorf’s unfortunate accident.

The comments about the articles essentially said that the media had encouraged people to go out on the ice to recreate recklessly.

Wrong.

I won’t speak to the Reno paper’s story, but I can about the Sierra Sun’s. Back in December we ran a story called “On thin ice.” It detailed the North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s ice rescue team. More importantly, though, it focused on the danger associated with going out on the region’s many lakes and ponds and what to do and not to do if someone fell through the ice.

If “Danger on Donner Lake: Frozen water not safe” doesn’t quite capture the situation, I don’t know what would. That headline ran on the front page of our Jan. 24 edition. The story and photos featured the Truckee Fire Protection District’s ice rescue crew. As in the December story, this one also quoted officials about the danger of the ice. It also had sidebar information about the dos and don’ts of recreating on the ice.

Yes, the photo that ran on page two last Monday may have been ill-advised, but to say the Sierra Sun was cavalier about how it portrayed things on the ice prior to Sommerdorf’s accident is wrong.