The Oakland Press Newspaper in Pontiac, Mich. was overwhelmed with emails following the publication of International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger's response to their July, 11 editorial on Firehouse.com and the IAFF web site.
Vicki Arsenault, assistant to Executive Editor Gary Gilbert, said they received hundreds of responses critical of the editorial which Schaitberger described as an "outrage and a slap in the face of every fire fighter."
The newspaper's response to the critical emails from firefighters across the country was to submit to Firehouse.com and the IAFF, an editorial they will publish in their July 26 edition. In that editorial, the editors have written, "The words also were perceived as harsh and unfair, especially under the inevitably confused circumstances. To that extent, they were in fact harsh and unfair. An apology is due and offered."
Arsenault said the editors agreed that it was probably too sensitive an issue yet for firefighters, for the original editorial writer, editor Neil Munro, to have used the descriptions that he did. The original editorial suggested firefighters at the WTC were playing cowboy in their actions to rush into the buildings.
The newspaper, Arsenault said, was hoping the new editorial would more clearly state the feelings of the newspaper on the subject of the current WTC reports and the actions of the firefighters.
IAFF spokesman George Burke said they were "pleased they saw the light", in reference to the new editorial.
The type of language they used, Burke said, rightfully upset firefighters. "So I have to give them some kudos for reassessing their editorial, and writing another. It was the right thing for them to do."
"It bears testament to the number of firefighters who visit and take seriously the material that the web sites of the IAFF and Firehouse.com publish," Burke said.