Responding to Criticism

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Some of it is all in good fun, I’m sure, but what is the common reader and, furthermore, letter (email?) writer to think when a columnist responds with one of the two following things after some commentary about their work:

Exhibit A: Jim Romenesko points out that Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times sends a form letterish email back to readers who comment back on his opinion columns, and…

Exhibit B: Wonkette writes about how WaPo reporter Jonathan Weisman apparently wasn’t too happy about DeLong’s writeup about the press corps being more descriptive in various pieces when it might be unfavorable for the target of the article to do so? I don’t see how it’s wrong to do, but apparently Weisman wasn’t happy with it, and fired off an email posted here at Blogging the President.

Some interesting reactions from two different places. I think the first one might have had some good intention, but ends up doing exactly what Romenesko points out. Creating the “I’m up here and you’re down there” situation, rather than just saying, “Thanks for your email, sorry you didn’t like the column, but it is an opinion piece, and that’s all. Points taken.” I’m sure part of it comes from getting deluged with emails, but there needs to be a little restraint there, don’t we think?

With regard to the latter, I’d say that was definitely Weisman reacting in such a way with the “that blogger person said what?” about his column, in a “how dare someone criticize me” kind of way. Get over it. You’re a psuedo public figure, and you have to suck it up sometimes. While you might have a reaction internally, you don’t have to blow up someone’s spot over it.

In college, I wrote an article about the rapper Notorious B.I.G. being killed, and entitled it “Loss too B.I.G. to ignore” and submitted it to the entertainment editor at my student newspaper. Due to space constraints, etc., it ended up in the “opinion” section, which was kind of here and there-ish, not like your local paper, and I got flat out lambasted by a female student who thought I was being ignorant for not mentioning the plight of the young black males who are killed in the street every single day in senseless violence. While I understood her point completely, it ended up happening probably more because the article was published in the “opinion” section of the newspaper rather than in the Entertainment section. I was just focusing on the loss of a fairly popular star in the rap game’s death, and only briefly touched on general violence in the streets and the loss of life every day. What did I do about it? Nothing. I took it as a good point, and it’s something that I’m sure shapes things I’ve written ever since. “Did I put too much opinion in that? Am I looking at all sides?”

A million questions float through your head when you write things. Did I have to go after her about it, track her down at the school? No, I finished the next couple years of college, got a beat covering the hockey team for my senior year, and that was it. These things happen.

We all have to think when blasting emails out to our bosses, spouses, and friends. Perhaps we should all take two deep breaths and perhaps hit “draft” on that email before it hits the highway.

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