We know how this looks.

It would be easy to interpret this week’s cover story that exposes discrepancies in Yes Weekly’s print run as the work of disgruntled former employees taking a shot at their former boss.

And it would be disingenuous to say there’s not some truth in that.

Our entire trio of editors worked at Yes Weekly for years; one of us was fired and two of us quit. Together we started Triad City Beat.

The business we own together, Beat Media Inc. and its newspaper, were founded on the notion that an honest little company could make it in this market.

Ninety issues later, we’re still swinging away.

It’s hard enough when you play by the rules — which we do scrupulously. We have printing receipts for every issue, since we started, to prove it. But if the other guy is cutting corners, it’s even harder.

If a hotdog stand owner found out the guy across the street was using rat meat, we reasoned, he’d probably do something about it. And we realized that, though we weren’t the best candidates to expose this story, if we didn’t, the issues it raises would continue to go unreported.

Some might say the whole thing is not a big deal — what’s the difference between a few thousand papers? But those numbers set the basis for ad rates and readership, the two things by which newspapers live and die.

We only sell one thing: readers’ eyeballs. Penetration is a metric of meeting potential in our quest to attract readers. A decrease of almost 60 percent affects every single department.

It hits advertisers the worst, though; when their message only hits a fraction — apparently less than half — of the people they thought it would, some of them start to think that advertising in newspapers doesn’t really work, a notion we would strongly dispute.

In that way, it’s like urinating in the community well.

The other thing is a matter of integrity.

How can a newspaper hold others accountable for their words, demand transparency from government and honesty from elected officials without itself adhering to those values?

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