Trust is a little word for an enormous concept. Trust is difficult to earn and easy to lose. And it’s an important aspect of our relationship with our readers. We’ve declared that one of our goals is to provide impartial information that our readers can rely on. Readers must have confidence that what they read in the Island Sand Paper is true and accurate.If we print something in an article that we later find to be false or misleading, we print a correction.
There are some aspects of being a tourism destination that can cause some angst in our office. Like many Islanders, we are committed to promoting Fort Myers Beach as a great place to live and work and play because we truly believe it IS a great place to live and work and play.
But what happens when our perfect paradise shows its less than perfect side? Every community has challenges to face whether it’s crime or natural disasters or just plain human foibles. Should we highlight those aspects of our community?
In a tourism economy, there is tendency to overlook occasional problems, not necessarily sweep them under the rug, but not shine a bright spotlight on them either. Visitors, they say, aren’t much interested in hearing about car accidents, sex offenders and D.U.I. cases. They’re here to have a good time and forget their troubles. Let’s not air our dirty linen.
However, our readers include a fair number of visitors plus the Island locals who make their home or living on the beach. They are very much interested in anything that impacts their life or livelihood
Lately we’ve been challenged with how to cover the water quality issues raised with the Lake Okeechobee releases. We’ve had occasional water quality issues before, when the gates were opened at Lake O, but it’s usually been for a short period of time. The water releases impact both life and livelihood for many people, so we’ve been all over this story. By doing so, we are advocating for the businesses that rely on our water quality and the jobs that are at risk when our water quality is threatened.
We also know that this month’s dark water is pretty rare and has raised some challenges for Islanders in the hospitality business. How should they answer questions about the water?What should they say and when?
This week the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) offered some suggestions for commonly asked questions. While I’m sure the answers are helpful for those who are not tuned into local environmental issues, some of the answers they suggest are a bit disingenuous.
Such as the explanation that the dark water color is caused by ”tannins from plants and other organic material that give the water a coffee-like appearance.”
I don’t know who they’ve been talking to but coffee has never come up when folks have talked to us about the water color.
And tannins? Really?Tannins color the water of our back bay normally. Fishing and tour guides explain this all the time. The normal tannin tint is totally different than the dark brown stuff flowing down the river.
The VCB does a good job explaining why the water has been released due to record rainfall during this rainy season. They also explain "under normal conditions, with typical rainfall amounts, this does not occur along our beaches.” Good stuff that our visitors should be hearing.
The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce is working with the Sanibel Chamber to gather some real data on how the water quality issue is affecting their accommodations business members. It will be interesting to see the results and have some real on-the-ground reports on how water quality affects our businesses. It’s always nice to see a proactive approach taken for a complex issue.
Water quality is not the only challenge faced by Islanders. In spite of our Island vibe and our laid-back ambiance, our community faces much the same challenges as any other community. We have crime. This year has brought a rash of breaking and entering incidents on the beach. Each time someone is a victim, we’re sure to get a call that we need to do a story on all the B & E’s on the beach. In fact we have highlighted the issue and urged residents and visitors to lock home and car doors and keep an eye open in your neighborhood. We also encourage Islanders to sign up for alerts at crimereports.com.
We don’t list crimes, or car accidents or sex offenders or D.U.I. arrests. Sex offender locations are available on crimereports.com. If we were to list arrests, to be fair to those who have been arrested, but were found innocent, we’d have to list results of trials, all of which require more time than our weekly paper’s staff has available.
We work hard to ensure that your trust is well placed and well deserved. We will continue to focus on what makes our Island a great place to live and work and play. And we’ll keep Islanders informed on critical issues like our water quality challenges.