YOU WANT NEWS? TURN TO THE EDITORIAL PAGE

It takes a Post-Dispatch editorial to deliver the news on Laumeier Sculpture Park

At least a few readers among the 516,237 who picked up last Sunday's Post-Dispatch may have been surprised by the lead editorial. It was all about that silly mess out at Laumeier Sculpture Park -- you know, the one RFT staff writer Eddie Silva has been writing about since September. If readers immediately turned to the editorial page -- and who doesn't? -- they discovered, under the headline "Laumeier Sculpture Park: The county's tarnished jewel," an account of how executive director Beej Nierengarten-Smith is under fire for how she's running the park, including tearing down a sculpture and using park funds to have her own art possessions appraised and transported. Trouble is, if you depended on the daily paper of record, you wouldn't know much about the situation: When it comes to Beej's travails, the P-D has run three stories -- on Sept. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3 -- totaling just 1,238 words. Our own Mr. Silva has typed out 6,818 words on the issue, starting with a piece published on Sept. 8. P-D editorial-page editor Christine Bertelson acknowledges that the editorial included info not reported in her paper and that it was therefore ahead of the paper's news crew. She credits Susan Hegger, editorial writer and RFT refugee, for reading Silva's work and then "making two or three rounds of telephone calls" about the controversy. Bertelson says the "ideal situation" is to have "strong editorials that are built on strong news reporting" -- strong reporting, one assumes, from the P-D. Sayeth Christine: "It's problematic to have an editorial about something that our readers don't know about. How can they put it in context? So we'll try to provide some context if we haven't had it in the news pages." One thing you won't see, despite Bertelson's apparent independence, is an editorial blasting the news side for anemic reporting. There are limits, after all.

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