Fact is, you're lucky to please anyone. Sometimes I think the newspaper reading public is a vast vat full of circling sharks, or maybe ravenous buck-toothed piranhas, waiting for the next columnist to dip her toe in the tank and give her a shiny new blood red toenail polish.
Everyone's a critic, see, and everyone has their own idea of what a newspaper should and should not contain; they are also not afraid to express their opinion, in the form of letters to the editor, usually penned in a self-righteous holier-than-thou tone.
That's a good thing, in many ways. If readers are claiming ownership to what belongs in a paper and what doesn't, it means they care about the publication. It means they're reading it. There are so many newspapers struggling in this modern age of internet news and television that many publications are going the way of the dinosaur. So the fact that anybody cares enough to criticize the content is good.
However, it does suck being on the receiving end of such letters. No matter how many you get, it still hurts. I received two such letters in the last week. One from the local drive-in complaining about a piece I did about racy movies, children and drive-ins and one from a former colleague at the paper taking me to task for a column about potato salad. (By the way, if you follow the links you'll see original unadorned posts. What appeared in the local newspaper was edited for profanity and MUCH tamer, especially in the case of the drive-in post.)
For the record, I LOVE the local drive-in and I've written many times about how wonderful it is. Nobody's a bigger fan than our family. We go several times every summer and spend a substantial amount of money at the concession stand because we truly believe in supporting this awesome business. When I went there last year to take pictures for an article that appeared in one of our summer magazines, the drive-in people were so happy they sent free passes. They weren't so happy this time, although I do believe any free publicity is good publicity. Like letters to the editor themselves, it means people care enough to talk about it. Any fading celebrity knows that not-talking is career-death.
The letter from a former colleague really hurt my feelings, though, I think mostly because he IS a former colleague and I would hope there would be some degree of professional courtesy among writers. This is what he said:
I was a humour writer for the Muskoka Sun for some 10 years, so it was with some surprise and shock as I read through the article by Cathy Oliffe-Webster "If it ain't Bojac, it ain't potato salad", Muskoka Sun June 29/12.
I have read and usually enjoyed her humorous takes on life, in your Weekender publication. There is often a fine line between humour and distasteful tripe. I personally think she dug too deep into the humour barrel in this article with references of 'child trafficing, heroin use and whoring' not to mention 'skank and leather'. This is not the kind of journalism I associate with the Muskoka Sun. It might be better suited to the tabloids that that are rife with these kinds of references, but not something I wish to read while enjoying the beauty and serenity of Muskoka.
I realize that she was trying to be funny but I really think she and perhaps your editorial department missed the mark on this one.Distasteful tripe? Erm, whatever.
As for the references to skank and leather, it was a JOKE and it was about my MOTHER who is the epitome of classiness and SHE thought it was hilarious so honestly that's all that matters. That, and the potato salad, which was delicious.
Also, I don't get paid for the articles in the paper. Not a dime. Volunteer labour rewarded only with snide remarks? Ha! Welcome to my world.
click here. THANK YOU!!
(I guess I won't be getting a donation from either of those letter writers... sigh....)
***P.S. My e-mail account was hacked overnight so if you get a message from me with no subject line or a weird link of any kind, DON'T CLICK ON IT. I have changed my password so hopefully the problem is fixed. In the meantime, my apologies to anyone who might have opened the messages. Stupid hackers. Really, get a life, boys. Go write a letter to the editor or something....