The Weekly's "Pleasanton Preps" columnist, Dennis Miller, wrote last week about a situation in which a set of parents did an investigation of Amador Valley High School girls varsity basketball coach Al Chavira, which led to his being placed on leave. Other team parents felt the "dirt" dug up was benign and requested the coach's reinstatement.
Comments via email and on Town Square indicate significant confusion between a news story, editorial and a column.
News stories are the most basic form of journalism -- reporting that conveys the essence of an issue or event from as many perspectives as possible. A news story might contain the opinion of the sources through quotes, but it does not include the opinions of the writer.
Editorials reflect the consensus view of the paper's editorial board.
Columns are written by people paid to share information and opinions. The American Press Institute, in its news literacy curriculum for middle school students, describes a columnist as a "writer of a column that appears regularly. Columnists frequently offer opinions on current events."
Like most papers across the country, the Pleasanton Weekly has more than one column. All written by veteran journalists with decades in the industry, our columns include "Tim Talk" by Tim Hunt, "Around Pleasanton" by Jeb Bing and "Pleasanton Preps" by Dennis Miller.
Readers can differentiate between news stories, editorials and columns by presentation and writing style.
News stories have the byline of the reporter and will not reflect the opinion of the reporter. Editorials run on the Opinion page and are written from the perspective of a group, using words like "we" and "us."
Columns run regularly, and usually in the same location in the paper, have a title like "Around Pleasanton" or "Pleasanton Preps" and generally have a photo of the columnist and a "tagline" at the end of the column that contains information about the writer and how to contact them. Personal pronouns are used to indicate opinion.
Columns online can be presented as blogs or in a more general area of the website with the name of the column in the headline and the tagline information at the end. Editorials are sometimes presented this way online, identified with the word "Editorial" in the headline.
The commonality among news stories, editorials and columns is that we strive for truth and accuracy. Facts written in the "Pleasanton Preps" column last week were true, but the accuracy of one point was questionable.
Dennis referenced a private investigator's report, but we have not been able to obtain a copy of the alleged report and the family's written complaint cites only their personal research.
As a matter of transparency and journalistic ethics, we wanted to clarify that information as soon as possible and have posted an editor's note/clarification on the online version of last week's column that says:
"A previous version of this Pleasanton Preps column stated that a private investigator's report was sent to Amador Valley High School before girls basketball coach Al Chavira's suspension. The complaint filed with the school cited a family's own, personal research into the coach's background."
The parents in question have declined the opportunity to write a rebuttal, anonymously, for the Weekly. For his part, Chavira has not responded to our request for comment.
Speaking of ethics, no families were named in the "Pleasanton Preps" column to lessen any negative impacts on all girls on the team.
Speaking of children, the real injured parties in this mess are the Amador girls basketball players. Their season ended in turmoil amid an abrupt coaching change -- the removal of a second-year coach described as dedicated and well-liked by many team parents ... save at least two.