Why are you covering X when you should be covering Y?
Why did you waste space with a photograph of a dog on a horse when you could have shown the slaughter in Syria?
I always get a kick out of these complaints.
The premise is simple: regardless of what’s contained in the rest of the paper, that one solitary space was egregiously misappropriated.
That space on the bottom of Page 1 was destined for greatness. It could have turned heads, won awards for its penetrating insight. Alas, it was squandered on some lame story about a goat and hedgehog.
On Monday, The Telegram’s Cheers and Jeers section gave federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a little jab for telling everyone he smoked pot. No big deal; it just seemed like a bad campaign move.
Some readers took issue, and they have every right to. But one observer went further. He found that single paragraph represented a total failure of journalistic judgment.
“Jeers to The Telegram for criticizing Trudeau, while failing to criticize all those people who flaunt the law daily by texting and talking on the phone while driving,” he said. “I think this practice is much more dangerous, and The Telegram is in a position to do something about it. How about some editorials, articles, etc., about the dangers?”
Plenty of coverage
Well, just last Thursday, Internet guru John Gushue had a whole column on it. Back in May, reporter Josh Pennell had a front page feature on it, entitled “Texting: the new drunk driving.”
In fact, between news reports, editorials and opinion columns, The Telegram has devoted a lot of ink to warnings about this dangerous new threat — at least 30 articles over the past two years. (That doesn’t include other dangerous behaviour while driving, such as cleaning spilled coffee or putting on makeup.)
But I will give our reader some leeway. Frankly, I agree that the scourge of distracted driving cannot be over-emphasized. It is, as Pennell’s article points out, coming to be an even bigger problem than drunk driving.
Look at it this way. Would you drink three or four shots of alcohol, then climb behind the wheel and drive your toddler to kindergarten? No? Well, that’s the equivalent of hauling out your cellphone in the middle of traffic.
As RNC Staff Sgt. Sean Ennis told Pennell in May, people just haven’t assigned the same stigma to cellphone use as they have to driving drunk.
“We’re not gonna give our 17- or 18-year-old daughter or son the keys to the car and a bottle of rum or a dozen beer.” Ennis said. “We wouldn’t do that, but we’re giving them the keys to the car and we give them a cellphone but we don’t give them the headset to go with it or give them the (proper) advice.”
Despite the fact a majority of drivers seem oblivious to the risks involved, the statistics are grim. Police in Nova Scotia recently confirmed that distracted driving has so far surpassed impaired driving as the No. 1 cause of deaths this summer. Saskatchewan has reported similar statistics.
Ontario blames 30 per cent of its highway accidents on distracted driving, although speed is the top cause in that province.
And in case you’re not aware, hands-free communications, such as that built-in Bluetooth connections, do not lower distracted driving risks by any significant amount.
So, yes, let’s talk more about texting and driving. Let’s up the fines, catch people in the act. Anything to stop the madness.
We don’t, however, want to go too far, inserting messages willy-nilly — as in this witty example offered by another commentator:
“I found his portrayal of the Young Sebastian to be rather contrived while the middle of the play started to drag, but not as bad as texting and talking on the phone while driving.”
No play could be that bad.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s