Why did you cover that stupid story?


I had to share this exchange between a reader and me. It’s in response to a story I wrote about a cat that was lost at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The cat jumped out of a cage as it was being unloaded and escaped in a secure area of the airport. The airline (at the time the story was reported) wouldn’t let the owner go back to help find the cat because then the terrorists would win, or some such silliness.

So the story ran and a reader sent this letter to the wrong e-mail address. Today, realizing the error, the reader sent the e-mail to the correct e-mail address. Here’s the letter:

Subject: Your story

I am absolutely appalled!  Since when is a lost kitten news?!  Not only is it in the Local section, but it is highlighted on page 2 of the main section!!  Are there any standards for value of a story?  This story takes up more space than “offshore drilling.”  Is this indicative of the mentality of your average reader?  Please explain this to me.  Thank you. 

And my reply:

I just got this today.

I try not to compare the space one story gets to the space another story gets unless I get a vote in placement or space. They tell me to write 200 words, I write 200 words. And my bosses say where it goes, not me.

For my part, I’m not so interested in a lost kitten as I am in an airline that loses something precious to a passenger coupled with a bureaucracy that won’t let people do their utmost to resolve the situation. That, along with the fact that the lost item is a living thing, is interesting to enough readers that I’ve had more e-mails and phone calls on this subject than I get on most stories I write.

Again, I’m not defending giving this story more space than another story, or giving this story more prominent play than another story. Just saying that it was interesting enough to get a lot of reader feedback (including, I hate to remind you, yours).

Thanks for writing.

Epilogue: the cat’s still lost, but the owner has been able to get back into the secure area, with an airline employee. The cat’s name is Rocky. She’s the one on the right. If you find her, let me know.

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