The best news presentation of related stories, photos and graphics usually occurs when everyone works together on a project. Poor presentation can plague us when we fail to communicate from editor to editor, photographer to reporter, and on through the chain.
The latter happened to one of our stories Sunday, and the impact of the story was a far cry from what the reporter wrote. Reporter Maura Possley set out to update the condition of farmworker housing in Manatee County as this year’s harvest season begins.
In 2000, Herald reporters found deplorable conditions, and their stories helped bring better inspections, better cooperation and better accountability for workers. They also found business owners who were working just as hard to get it right. Bob Spencer was one of those employers, and he has worked at both the local and state level to strive for continued improvement in farmworker housing.
As Maura walked through Spencer’s West Coast Tomato and other properties with inspector Jeri Briggs, she saw respectable living conditions -– even “cushy,” as Briggs noted. That story, however, ended up being illustrated by a negative quote, a questioning headline and a photo of a gritty bathtub -– the only exception of that day’s tour.
Not fair. When Bob Spencer called on Monday, he had every right to be upset. We had rushed to get a section out on deadline, without thinking about the impact of all those pieces together. In his letter to the editor in tomorrow’s editions, Bob writes:
West Coast Tomato has invested millions of dollars in purchasing and maintaining migrant housing. Our goal is to provide a safe and sanitary living environment for the workers who leave their families to come and work for our company…
The Bradenton Herald chose to publish only the photographs that reflected our housing in a negative manner. This violated the journalistic ethics that require a story to be reported fairly.
Being in the business of communication, we sometimes forget to do that in-house. I apologized to Bob for the poor combination Sunday, and applaud him here for the work he does in our community.