There's been quite a response to a story that ran in the Appeal on July 30 on Tamara Pachak, a girl with more than 20 navel rings. She believes she may have set a world record.
The story and photos prompted a handful of letters to the editor and more than a hundred comments at www.nevadaappeal.com.
The letters to the editor maintained that people in Carson City do not want to read about body piercing, and that we should instead be covering people in the community who were doing positive things. Another letter called it "the worst report I have ever seen" and said the pictures were sickening. A third used the adjectives "stupid, asinine, despicable and gross," and maintained that it was an improper lesson to young folks.
A few letters defended the story, criticized those who judged others' worth and said we should be reporting on all phases of our community.
There haven't been a lot of phone calls on the subject, but one voice mail on an entirely different subject did include this: "I know you've got a very young editor who was recently hired and he leans toward body piercing and stuff like that ..." (There are at least two things wrong with that: I haven't been very young in several years and I've never intentionally put a hole in my body).
As for the comments that have come in to www.nevadaappeal.com, well it's hard to characterize them succinctly. Many are critical of our running the story and others are supportive of the story and its subject. Some question her worth as a mother and label piercing as self-mutilation. One writer seemed to dismiss the whole thing as another of the dangers society faces from liberals. One writer asked for stories that are more interesting and have more "societal meaning."
Some defend the story and Pachak. One person even wrote that Pachak, as a nurse assistant, had saved her mother, and another that she had kept a child from having to have his toes amputated after an accident at the lake.
To clarify, the story was not presented as news. Sometimes a story is just a story about someone in our community who is doing something interesting or noteworthy. The story's intent was not to judge or glorify what she was doing.
Many of the questions raised after the story ran are compelling.
Will it cause other people to get their bodies pierced? I don't know the answer to that one. My guess is no, but I've got no proof one way or another. If so, it calls into question the content of a great deal of newspaper and magazine stories, as well as most of the content on TV.
Were the photos of the piercings inappropriate? Another judgment call, but clearly we deemed them to be OK. In the opinion of several people, we were very wrong on that decision. We can't guarantee they won't find us guilty of the same in the future, but we'll always strive to use our best judgment.
Does the response to this article mean that we will avoid stories that make people uncomfortable? No, sorry, we won't make that promise. There are lots of uncomfortable things happening in our community, news and otherwise. Our goal as a newspaper is not just to reflect the majority in our community, which is the case with most of our stories. We also want to tell stories about other people and other issues here. Why would you not want to know about them? Why would you want to read only about people who are like you?
Rest assured, running this story does not mean we will run fewer stories on people doing positive things in our community. That will always be a primary focus of the Appeal.
At the end of it all, a few things stand out. One is that it's led to an interesting and somewhat educational debate on body piercing, something that's very prevalent even here in Carson City.
Second, a lot of people seem to have read this story.
In the interest of full-disclosure ...
In Sunday's edition of the Appeal, you'll be reading a story about a doctor who's begun doing things the old-fashioned way.
Dr. Robert Fliegler of Carson City makes house calls. He began his practice because, he says, he was tired of the paperwork and bureaucracy that comes from dealing with insurance companies.
It's a compelling story because he has become the city's first "concierge" doctor, which is a growing trend nationwide. Fliegler, an Air Force veteran, offers 15 percent of his services for free to help those who cannot afford it.
During the reporting for the story, we learned a few things about Dr. Fliegler that, initially, had us concerned about running the story. The first was that he was the subject of a complaint made to the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. The second was that he'd been arrested in June following a domestic violence call.
We checked out both claims. We found that he was cleared of allegations by the family of a patient that he was negligent by not ordering a CT scan in 2002 on a woman who later died of a torn aorta. By "clear and convincing evidence" the Board concluded that Dr. Fliegler acted with reasonable care, skill and knowledge. The Medical Board found that the test was not called for based upon the patient's symptoms. Despite this finding, a civil suit remains pending.
The domestic violence call came after Fliegler, who is going through a divorce, went to his home to pick up some items. An argument ensued and both he and his wife called the police. Dr. Fliegler was arrested even though he was the only one with physical injuries. At the time of trial, the claimed battery charge was dropped and Fliegler pled to a charge of disorderly conduct. That charge will be dismissed if there are no complaints against the doctor in the next year and he undergoes an anger management evaluation.
Why am I mentioning this here? It's because I'd like readers to know the facts about those cases.
Were we to ignore them altogether, I'm sure the rumor mill would be active within days after the story ran. And it might not be the accurate information.
• Barry Ginter is the editor of the Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com or 881-1221.