When a reader is unhappy with a story, it would be nice if they kept the content of the email to what drew their ire.
But they never do.
One type of person launches into a pedantic explanation of what being a journalist entails:
“John, before I launch into a pedantic explanation of what being a journalist entails, I want to tell you that I have experience in the newspaper industry. You see, I used to turn tricks in the parking lot of the Des Moines Register back in the ’70s after the cops tossed me from the Greyhound bus station across the street. So I think I’m more than qualified to weigh in. …”
The second type giddily tells me I’m a no-good member of a rotten profession in a state of much deserved decline, and soon I’ll be unemployed. It seems mean to pray for Americans working in American-owned businesses to lose their jobs. You wouldn’t say that about coal miners.
These writers of anti-reporter invectives are, more often than not, the very people who crow the most about freedom of speech and religious liberty. Apparently, that doesn’t extend to the press. They never call it the press, either. It’s “the media,” a pejorative for people like me who traffic in words and facts. They paint us as a monolithic group that lurks in an underground bunker, awaiting the Tuesday night blood orgy. We are, but that’s beside the point.
Last week, I wrote a story that referenced President Donald Trump. I wrote out “President Donald Trump” on first reference and Trump thereafter — standard protocol. This offended a reader, who emailed to tell me I failed to bestow the proper respect upon Trump because I didn’t refer to him as “President Trump” throughout the story. She called me a “Never Trumper,” told me to accept the election outcome and said Trump’s lack of respect for anyone was no excuse for me to not be respectful. She, of course, chimed in on the glorious decline of the press.
It seemed presumptuous of her to call me a “Never Trumper.” I never let my personal misgivings factor into my work. A lot of people don’t understand that. I’m a human being. I have opinions. But I’m also a professional, and just because I think the President is a marmalade-hued psychopath doesn’t preclude me from doing my job. I hate city council meetings, too, but you won’t see me booing in the back row. (Fun fact about me: Whenever I cover a city council meeting and it runs longer than four hours, I cry.)
Anyway, I found this reader’s Twitter account, which had been inactive for about four years, but I couldn’t help noticing she had referred to President Barack Obama as “Barack Insane Obama.” I screen-captured her Tweet and emailed it back to her, posing the question “Is this the respect for the office to which you were referring?”
I haven’t heard back.