Some of you may know that we publish two community newspapers: This publication for Lake Highlands, and a similar newspaper for the East Dallas/Lakewood readership.
If you saw both newspapers lying side-by-side, you’d notice a definite kinship between them.
Both are tabloid-size, both feature lots of neighborhood stories and pictures, and both have the same general attitude: There’s nothing wrong with publishing good news about good people.
Occasionally, we veer off (intentionally and otherwise) into topics that aren’t universally popular. And on some of these occasions, some of you call us to point out that you don’t believe we’re fulfilling our stated mission of “improving life in our neighborhoods.”
As an example, a few years ago in our East Dallas/Lakewood newspaper, I wrote a column about what I considered to be an ironic conversation with a neighborhood resident who was contemplating moving from her beloved neighborhood home because she absolutely, positively didn’t want her child attending a Dallas Independent School District school. (For everyone’s protection, I didn’t publish her name or any distinguishing description in the column).
Mind you, the woman I wrote about didn’t even have children. And even worse, she hadn’t even set foot in her neighborhood elementary school.
In fact, she didn’t even know the name of her neighborhood elementary school. I had to tell her the name of the school she had been so eager to bad-mouth to me (and presumably to anyone else with whom she decided to converse).
I couldn’t help but point out in my column what I considered to be the obvious flaw in this woman’s logic: How can you say a neighborhood school provides an inferior education to children when you don’t have any children and have never visited the school?
It was a pretty open-and-shut case, in my opinion.
Needless to say, this column wasn’t among my most popular with some of our readers.
Five of them, to be exact.
For that’s the number of irate (and I do mean “irate”) telephone calls and letters I received from soon-to-be-former friends who believed I had taken a private conversation with them and turned it into a public humiliation for everyone who knew them.
I’ve always had to laugh about that column, despite the fact it removed my name from quite a few Christmas card lists, for one simple reason: The person about whom I wrote the column never did call or write me.
I don’t suppose she even read the column, much less our newspaper.
As I mentioned in the column, this woman “talked the talk” about improving our neighborhood, but she wasn’t willing to “walk the walk” of knowledge to determine the facts about her neighborhood school.
Now, it’s not my intent – nor is it typically the intent of this newspaper – to abuse our readers for being ignorant. But what else can you say about someone for whom perception is more important than reality.
If you read our coverage of RISD’s space needs proposals this month, and I hope you will, you’ll learn an awful lot of facts about what the future holds for our neighborhood schools.
You’ll learn about additions to existing schools, plans for new schools, as well as future and already-implemented, innovative programs designed to educate all types of children and continue making us proud of our neighborhood schools.
As part of our coverage, you’ll read the comments of friends and neighbors who have taken the time to become involved in our neighborhood schools. There are, after all, a number of racial and economic issues presenting significant challenges to what RISD Superintendent Vernon Johnson likes to describe as our “world-class” school system.
These people are trying hands-on to meet these challenges. And it has been my observation that people don’t solve too many challenges by just talking about them.
I ended that fateful column in the East Dallas/Lakewood paper by indicating that it was OK by me if people decided to send their children to private school – just as long as they didn’t bad-mouth their neighborhood public schools solely on the basis of comments from other parents (or parents-to-be) who didn’t know what they were talking about.
In the years since I wrote that column, I’ve enjoyed somewhat of a personal popularity upswing, having been added to quite a few Christmas lists again.
I’d sure hate to see my holiday mailings diminish this year.