There are always going to be people in certain professions who no one wants to deal with, such as IRS workers, DMV employees and, apparently, journalists. But I’m here to remind you that the people with those jobs are still living, breathing human beings!
Now, it’s no secret that readers aren’t always happy with the stories, columns and editorials published in a newspaper. I suppose it goes back to the old saying: You can’t please all of the people all of the time. OK, fine. It’s perfectly reasonable to disagree with an item you read in print. That’s the beauty of this country — everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and we can express those opinions whenever we want. In fact, we have a right to express those opinions; it’s covered in the first amendment. I hope you’ve heard of it.
I recently was talking with a few veteran journalist friends of mine and they shared with me a few “war stories.”
One journalist — we’ll call him Mr. X — told me a reader who didn’t like something he wrote once called him up and began to describe — in detail — his shotgun to Mr. X. Ummm, thinly veiled threat? I think so! Mr. X also told me that a woman who was upset with Mr. X for reporting her traffic citation in a blotter told him she would one day dance on his grave. A threat? Maybe not. A ridiculously harsh reaction to someone who was just doing his job? You betcha.
Another journalist friend — we’ll call him Mr. Y — once made a reader so angry over something he wrote, the reader paid Mr. Y’s car a visit in the newspaper parking lot and loosened the lug nuts on his vehicle! That’s insane! Why risk someone’s life just because he wrote about something someone didn’t agree with?!
Mr. Y also told me a story about one of his previous editors. Apparently, that editor published something in the newspaper that really irritated a reader because the angry reader went to a realtor and listed the editor’s house for sale. The editor learned his house had been put on the market when he was sitting at home watching a ball game one Sunday and a realtor came by with a couple who wanted to look at the house. Only then did he figure out what had happened.
Any journalist you ask will tell you he or she has been screamed at, insulted, called names, hung up on, threatened and harassed — myself included. I guess it comes with the territory and, to an extent, we come to expect it. But I’d like to remind all the haters that we are only doing our jobs.
I have no idea why anyone would think it’s acceptable to treat someone else so rudely. We ARE people. Every journalist is someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, someone’s friend. We have normal lives, too. We’re just regular folks. We’re not out to get anyone. We don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Hmmm, how can I tick off the masses today?” We simply go to work and try to do the best we can at our jobs.
Trust me, sometimes we don’t want to write about the things you see in the newspaper. We respect our story subjects and sources. We try to approach each situation as sensitively and as diplomatically as possible. But one of our primary duties is to uphold the first amendment, which means reporting on newsworthy happenings and allowing others to offer their opinions on the news, whether that is through a column, a letter to the editor or a blog.
The next time you feel the urge to yell at or insult a journalist, please keep that in mind. We’d all really appreciate it.