Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From the Editor: The Ripple Ruffles a Few Feathers…

A spring day in the ValleyThe old saying goes, “You can please some of the people some of the time, and all the people some of the time, but not all the people all of the time.” From its very first issue The Ripple has aspired to please “all the people all the time,”a noble mission, but apparently, as I recently learned, The Ripple has come up short. Granted, while loosely applying the 5 W’s of good journalism, The Ripple has endeavored to inform and entertain its audience. Perhaps “pleasing” them all was pushing journalism a bit too far.

A while back I was doing some banking, had finished my business and was hovering over the Friday cookie platter, stalking the choicest chocolate chip offering on the plate. I looked up and saw an old Valley acquaintance standing in the teller’s line. This fellow was featured in three Ripple posts, two in July 2010, and another July of last summer. He was a Valley walker and cyclist like me and occasionally we met along the way. Our meetings were frequent enough for us to develop a casual chit chat relationship.Whenever Gladys and I would roll up on him, the thread of conversation would invariably turn to the protocol of bicycle safety. “You better get yourself a helmet,” or “You need to raise the seat on your bike.” On subsequent meetings, just to appease him, I would share that I was raising the seat in increments and in fact had raised it about half an inch just that week. A couple months passed without my seeing him striding about in the Valley, and I wondered about his absence. During one of our meetings he told me he was considering walking or cycling to Texas to visit a friend. Perhaps he’s on his trip, I thought.

But in mid-July I did bump into him again—or rather he bumped into us, Gladys and me. It was a beautiful July morning, so I stretched Gladys a bit in the direction of a brilliant Mt. Ranier, stopped at my scenic vista of the mountain and parked my ride off the shoulder by the gravel driveway below Werkhovens’ digester just off the Lower Loop Road. The visibility was perfect for a picture or two of that spectacular mountain. I was just about to frame a photo when a car nosed into the gravel drive: my environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L on her way to Sunday services. I hardly had time for a greeting when I looked up and saw a cyclist speeding toward us. “Certainly he sees the car,” I thought. Apparently he didn’t. On he came, head down, following the fog line as if it were a wire, on a collision course with the hatchback of Nancy’s car. I fully expected him to dart left and wheel around the obstacle. But he didn’t. In the nick of time, he looked up, and shot to the right between Nancy’s car, me and Gladys. My unsuspecting vintage Columbia was unceremoniously hurled aside into the weeds; I sprung backward out of harm’s way, (pulling a leg muscle in the effort, I later discovered); rider and bike went down amid a cloud of dust and a barrage of gravel. I rushed to the downed biker’s side, and as he turned his head, his face a grimace of pain, I recognized my Valley friend. It was a reunion neither of us could have imagined—nor wanted. It’s not often one is part of a news story himself and The Ripple, always hungry for news, was on hand to give a full accounting of our unfortunate reunion. I spent the better part of the day dealing with the aftermath. (For a full accounting read “No Crying on…,” 7/26/2010; I posted a follow-up story 7/29/2010).

Again, here I am at the bank hovering over the cookie plate when I see my companion for nearly a day that July two years ago. Only once since then had I seen him out in the Valley. Last summer one day in July he breezed by me, eyes as usual cast down at the road. I had recognized him earlier as he passed me by. When I saw him returning, I remembered his fascination with the fog line, and just to play it safe, crossed to the opposite side of the road. Then, as now, I received no recognition, no nod, no wave, no smile… nothing…(“Strange…Very Strange Indeed…”7/13/2011). Here in the lobby he glances around while waiting his turn, gazes in my direction. I smile, we make eye contact. Immediately he averts his glance. Perhaps he doesn’t recognize me? The strangeness continues….

I leave the cookies behind, approach him, and ask how he’s been. To my surprise instead of a friendly “glad to see you” posture, a “by the way, ‘thanks again,’” I receive a frosty greeting. “I don’t appreciate what you wrote about me in your blog.” Not the greeting I expected, by any means. In surprise, I retrenched, apologized, and asked him just what I said he disliked. Apparently he thought the posts portrayed him in a less than favorable light. “You have no right,” I’m told with forced restraint, “to write about people without their permission if they’re not public figures.” I stood there, the cookies in my hand forgotten, totally taken aback. My only defense was: “Wel-l-l-l…it’s just a blog, you know.” In a tone that sent a chill through me, I’m further chastised by: “You know, you’re not a journalist; you’re just a gossip writer!” Oh, harsh…The Ripple ripped! With that, he turned on his heels. End of conversation. All I could blurt (or blubber) was, “Nice talking to you,”as I exited the bank.

“Wonder if The Good Samaritan Act extends to blogs?” I pondered all the way home. The chilly reunion certainly explained the cold shoulder I received from my cyclist friend last summer. As I said at the outset of this post, The Ripple’s mission has been to inform, and while I realize “entertain” might be stretching things a bit, it is  far from the blog’s intent to demean or belittle anyone--certainly not to make others look or sound “like an idiot.” With my ears still stinging from the sarcasm, I thought I’d revisit the posts I wrote about my—at this juncture—“former” friend, see if they contained anything libelous enough to warrant such strong censure. The first post I thought to be an accurate reporting of the incident in which I had been “up close and personal”; the third, about last summer’s encounter, pretty much the same. The second post about our post-op visit, however, did give me pause. My subject is a fiercely independent, extremely private person. Perhaps I intruded a bit too much into his life, put his lifestyle on display where I shouldn’t have. If The Ripple was insensitive, The Ripple apologizes: it did not mean to be. And if it’s true The Ripple is little more than a gossip mill, perhaps I should have been sensitive to the fact that while everyone loves gossip, no one wants to be at the center of it.

Recently I mentioned that when I send a post off to the publisher’s, I never know if anyone ever reads it.  “A friend found your blog and showed it to me,” was my disgruntled friend’s icy launch into our brief bank conversation. (From our numerous Valley chats, I gathered he didn’t own a computer, wasn’t interested in blogs in the slightest.) So whether The Ripple is journalism, entertainment,…or gossip, pure and simple…the editor needs to remember: “What happens in the Valley, doesn’t necessarily stay in the Valley!” the author and Gladys

Print this post


  1. I find this unfortunate. First, you do have right to write about whomever you choose. I'm pretty sure that's a first amendment issue. But, in no way did I feel like you spoke poorly of this man. In fact, I remember you being genuinely concerned for his well-being after the incident. I know this criticism won't affect The Ripple's future posts and I'm grateful for that. After all, I'm a sucker for gossip.

    1. Thanks, kiddo...I've received quite a bit of support from readers and that relieves the sting somewhat. CF suggested I may have stepped out of bounds a bit with the photos, which as I told her, were indeed taken surreptitiously. The photos, however, did not seem to be the issue. As far as gossip is concerned, wasn't it Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "If you don't have anything good to say, sit by me." Dad