2017-05-19 / Columns

LEDGER COLUMNIST

Should manhole covers be painted bright colors?
Tim GULLA
STAFF WRITER

Reporters get tips all the time and there are many kinds.

It’s their stock in trade and how they handle them often says a lot about them. Do they simply run with a tip without checking it out? Do they ask why the tipster is giving the tip? Tipsters usually give a tip because they have a stake in a matter and the reporter has to know why. Is the tip for the greater good, or is it self-serving?

And then there are age-old ethical questions of source protection and credibility when it comes to identifying tipsters or not. Every moment of the day, it seems, national or Washington D.C. media are quoting unnamed “senior officials,” unnamed “national security officials,” and unnamed “White House” officials all the time to break one report or another. Who are these unnamed officials and are the tips self-serving? It wasn’t that long ago there were serious discussions in the media industry as a whole about the use of anonymous sources and it was always considered best practice to avoid them. I’m not sure where that changed but take a look at a national news report and see if you can identify the sources.

All of this brings me to several tips, or shall I say suggestions, I’ve gotten in the past few weeks by someone I consider a friend. He has repeatedly asked me to do an exposé on one of several issues that have been gnawing at him and he has been upset that I have been unable, or unwilling, to take on these topics in print.

After much consideration, I decided I would tackle them here in my column, where personal opinion and standing on soap boxes is allowed.

Suggestion number one for a possible exposé : “Why don’t they paint manhole covers really bright colors so you can see them in the roadway and avoid them?”

You know what? After some consideration, that’s actually not a half-bad question. It wouldn’t take much effort. Any time a utility crew has to do some work down a manhole, they can grab a can of spray paint and gussy up the manhole cover when they’re done.

The question becomes, of course, which color should you paint them? What about people with color blindness? So many questions. My friend likely didn’t think about that.

Suggestion number two for possible exposé: “Why don’t they fix the roads between Blacksburg and Gaffney?”

Another good question. And I have a feeling it’s based on the condition of portions of Highway 29 that will throw your vehicle around like a bucking bronco, although I’m not sure that the roads between Blacksburg and Gaffney are any worse than the roads in Gaffney or the roads in Blacksburg, or the private road in my apartment complex that is CRUMBLING TO PIECES. (Using all caps in this instance is meant to signify yelling, by the way, so the landlord of the aforementioned apartment complex might better hear).

Does this suggestion to investigate the condition of the paved pathways between Blacksburg and Gaffney serve a greater good? Sure it does. Is it a personal issue for the tipster? Sure enough. Will my landlord do anything about the crumbling and pothole plagued road in my apartment complex? I’m not holding my breath.

As you can plainly see, not all tips or suggestions a reporter gets are Pulitzer-worthy. That’s not to say they don’t have merit or value, though.

Another person I know has routinely questioned me about another issue — the answer to which would no doubt serve everyone, or at least everyone who happens to own or lease a vehicle in an area where frost is possible or if temperature and humidity conditions are prone to create a cloud of condensation on glass surfaces. “Why, if rear-window defrosters work so great on the back window, don’t we have them on the front window as well?”

That my dear friends, may be the greatest question ever asked and I’m not going to reveal my source. Don’t ask. I won’t tell. Let’s just say it was a “senior official.”

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