Individual readers who take umbrage at coverage tend to use distinct language that reflects their way of communicating when they speak. If I get a clot of protest in individual voices, I sit up and pay attention.
If, however, I get a glut of e-mails and voice mails in what appears to be "group-speak" - a common thread of language, sentences containing similar phrasing - I look to see what could be the source.
One representative e-mail on LaPlante's story contained this language:
"Mr. LaPlante seems to not care much for Dr. Laura. He has every right to his opinion on this. But, if he chooses to interview her and present her ideas to the public, as a legitimate reporter he should be held to a standard that shows her ideas as truthfully and clearly as possible. He failed miserably on this. . . . And as for 'Dr. Laura's Army,' we stand strong and saddened by an unfair representation of what Dr. Laura is all about. Shame on you all."
Other phone calls, voice mails and e-mails contained similar language. This smells of a campaign - and I had no idea Dr. Laura had an army.
Dr. Laura created a whole blog on LaPlante's story this week. In part, it read:
"Although this interview went over one-half hour, and I covered a wide range of subjects pertinent to military families and the war, [LaPlante] chose a comment, one that I've made before many times on the air, to make the primary focus of his article - and, he took it out of the entire context of my remarks.
"I am so deeply sad and disappointed that this out of context comment appears to have caused hurt and pain to military spouses - people that I've spent so much time helping. I am frustrated that people who haven't heard my program would be misled as to my attitude and intent.
"I am a military mom. I whine to my husband every day about how scared I am for my son and how helpless I feel to protect his body and soul. However, I never whine to my son when he is able to call between missions."
The blog goes on to detail how much money Dr. Laura has raised and how sympathetic she is to military families.
Oh, come on.
Dr. Laura has made a career out of talking. And, she made herself famous by using blunt language to express her opinions.
As LaPlante pointed out on his blog:
"The quote in question was the good doctor's answer to my question about what advice she most often gives military spouses who call into her show.
"Her answer? 'Stop whining.'
" 'He could come back without arms, legs or eyeballs, and you're bitching?' Schlessinger said before taking the stage at the Fort Douglas base theater to host her daily program on ethics, morals and values. 'You're not dodging bullets, so I don't want to hear any whining - that's my message to them.' "
"Schlessinger now says the quote was taken out of context. She is, of course, entitled to have her say."
On Wednesday night, Schlessinger took to the TV waves with an appearance on Fox News' "The Bill O'Reilly Show." She repeated what she wrote on her blog.
O'Reilly, who said the name of our paper was "the Salt Lake City Tribune," castigated LaPlante and basically said the reporter did not know how to do his job.
I beg to differ.
LaPlante not only keeps a close eye on military affairs of interest to Utahns, he also has been to Iraq twice, where he traveled and told the stories of Utahns on the war's fronts. He took risks equal to many troops in the theater and has the helmet and body armor to prove it.
To those Utahns who regularly read The Salt Lake Tribune, I am sure you understand how fair and detailed LaPlante is in his reporting.
* THE READER ADVOCATE'S phone number is 801-257-8782. Write to the Reader Advocate, The Salt Lake Tribune, 90 S. 400 West, Suite 700, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101. firstname.lastname@example.org
* 53: Number of folks who objected to Dr. Laura story
* 15: Number of people who like world/nation stories on A1
* 14: Number of folks calling us the best newspaper in Utah
* 27: Number of people sick of presidential race coverage