Monday, November 06, 2006

Hate Mail

In journalism, it's often said that you're not doing your job unless someone is mad.

In that case, I must be working overtime.

There are people out there who actually have a vendetta against little ole me. Can you believe it? I know I couldn't.

I knew a certain group of people - a coalition of residents against a proposed casino in my town - hated me. More accurately, the leaders of said organization hate me. They don't mind talking to me when I call. They don't mind filling my voicemail box with messages. But when I tell them I can't write a story because I'm swamped, or I question the newsworthiness of their stunts, they pitch a fit.

Take for example a conversation I had with the group's VP week before last. He wanted me to write a story and I told him I would but that it wouldn't be in the next few days because I had some election related stories I had to put out before the Nov. 7 race.

He. Goes. Off.

Starts telling me how I'm biased and asks if my not covering the story has anything to do with the fact that my paper endorsed the casino his group is fighting against. I tell him no and try to explain the difference between the Editorial Board and the News Department. He didn't want to hear it. Instead, he asks to speak to the owner of the newspaper.

Not the managing editor. Not my boss. The owner.

I directed him to my Deputy Managing Editor and called it a day. Moments later, his cohort, the Prez of the group, calls me trying to strong arm me into setting a date for the story. I tell him I can't because I don't dictate what runs when - the amount of space and the news of the day does. Attacks on my character are hurled. I try to reason with him but eventually, send him to my boss, who talks him down.

Last Wednesday, I see the duo at a town council meeting. I speak to them, make some small talk and go about my business. No need to be impolite, right? It's all business, nothing personal. The group proceeds to attack me during the meeting, suggesting inaccuracies in my reporting. (I went to the town officials quoted after the meeting to see if they were misrepresented - they had no problems with what I wrote.)

Well, Friday, my boss gets an e-mail from the Prez, basically bashing my competence as a reporter and suggesting that it's all a part of a larger conspiracy to bring a casino to town. The e-mail was also sent to the reporter who used to cover my town, as well as every media outlet in Southern New England.

Are you serious?

I'm not going to let these guys give me an ulcer, but honestly, they do make my head hurt. Even though I know, and my boss and the DME have all said on numerous occassions that I'm doing a great job covering the community, jabs like that hurt. Even if they do come from unreasonable policital gadflys like we're dealing with here.

It hurts because on some level, I'm wondering if they're right. I cover a lot of stuff they call me about, but I'm skeptical about a lot of it because without me, the things they are saying are just conspiracy theories. Once I write about it, it becomes news. And I take that responsibility seriously. I double check the figures they give me, get people to confirm or deny their allegations, and write it all up for the next day's paper.

Yet I still get e-mails circulated about me with the subject line "Unfair Journalism."

Well, you just can't make some people happy.


Good thing that isn't my job.

Posted by T Dot at 3:34 PM | link

Read or Post a Comment

A friend once said, "There's always a hater in the room." How true that statement is and continues to be.

You're doing the right thing by letting your work speak for itself.

Unlike certain groups, the only position journalists can take as you well know, is a strong stand behind the truth.

Posted by Anonymous CNEL @ 9:56 PM, November 06, 2006 #

Sometimes I feel like I'm hated by my editors. Like they somehow resent me for calling them to the carpet about not being as organized as they should be. Is it harder getting that feeling from your colleagues or from the public?

Posted by Blogger Aaron Morrison @ 10:22 AM, November 07, 2006 #

I think it's hard both ways. You kind of expect the public to hate you, and you expect your collegues - on some level - to be envioius of you. But you should expect your editors to be supportive of you, or at the very least, be firm, yet helpful. So I'd say not having that support in the newsroom from an editor would be worse than 10,000 e-mails from an angry reader.

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 3:40 PM, November 07, 2006 #
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