MOUNTAIN VIEW residents are normally an easygoing bunch. Rarely does something on the pages of the local newspaper get them too riled up.
It's true they take their schools seriously, as they should. And issues like, say, high speed rail are cause for concern. But compare that to Palo Alto, where residents held angry protests at the prospect of high speed rail running through their town.
That's why I was surprised at the visceral reaction to last week's Graduation Day coverage. Although our story covered both of the major regional schools -- Mountain View High and Los Altos High -- the photo coverage was only of Los Altos High, which touched a nerve with some readers.
Several phone calls were made about it, and since staff cutbacks at the Voice have reduced our ability to cover the phones, many had to content themselves with leaving voicemail messages. And man, did they leave them. Generally the messages were spitting mad and went as follows:
"Good friends of mine's children just graduated from Mountain View High School. I cannot believe on the front page of the Mountain View Voice, there's a picture of Los Altos High School. That is just so tacky!"
Or: "I wanna know why Los Altos is always in our Voice. It's the Mountain View, not Los Altos, Voice. And I resent the fact that you keep putting in Los Altos, where in the heck is our Mountain View students' pictures. And it's always Los Altos. Please, stop it! It just doesn't make sense, why we always have to have Los Altos."
There were others along those lines. One woman reached me in person Friday afternoon, and she too was beside herself with anger, calling our coverage "despicable."
I tried to explain that the graduation ceremonies at both schools were happening at the same time, and we only had one photographer available. I tried to explain that, even though Los Altos High has the words "Los Altos" in its name, we don't consider it to be only for that city, since half its student body lives in Mountain View. (According to the high school district, this year Los Altos High was 50 percent Mountain View residents, and Mountain View High was 48 percent Los Altos residents.)
I also noted that the story covered both schools. And I mentioned the other graduation events we covered this year (such as our Alta Vista High School story) whose ceremonies took place at Mountain View High.
She wasn't interested, saying basically that Los Altos has its school and we have ours. She said her piece and hung up.
There are two issues at play here, and the first -- the one where Los Altos has its school and we have ours -- doesn't trouble me too much, because I think it's misguided. And I bet the hundreds of Mountain View families whose kids are Eagles would agree with me.
But the second does have me troubled, because it follows a larger pattern that can be summarized as: Why don't you do all those things you used to do?
Last year the Voice ran every graduate's name in the paper. Why not this year?
Last year you ran several photos from both schools. Why not this year?
And why don't you guys answer the phone anymore?
Well, the answer is an unhappy one. As you probably heard, newspapers have hit hard times lately, and the Voice is no exception. Resources have dwindled, and the newsroom staff is asked to do more with less.
Last year we had two photographers available to us. This year we had only one.
Even so, next year is another chance, and I intend to make it up to these jilted readers. Which leads me to issue the following promise: Come next year, we'll do our best to take pictures of both high school graduation ceremonies.
Of course, this promise only applies if your Mountain View Voice hasn't shriveled up by then and blown away on a light wind. Then you can complain about the terrible lack of coverage at both schools. At least there will be parity.