Don Rogers: The value of critics
One blogger already has sliced, diced and dissed me. A month before I even started here.
Another mocked the mocker, mocked me and essentially asked why I’d even think about leaving Vail for Grass Valley. I already was guilty of forsaking Hawaii and Santa Barbara for other temptations. Now, yes, Vail.
We all have our ideals of paradise. The foothills, a bit higher in the pines so long as there’s oak in the firebox and snow less than knee deep, pretty much fits mine. Throw in Lake Tahoe just up the road one way, the coast the other and well, it’s not so hard a call.
Can’t say I wasn’t warned. In the name of full disclosure during recruitment, I was sent the urls of bloggers with, ahem, particular interest in The Union.
But critics are just part of the deal. Every paper has ’em. I’d be concerned if The Union didn’t. Actually, they’re a sign of health. You have to be interested, after all, to go to all the bother.
If so, I was amply blessed at the Vail Daily. I got both barrels from editors at two competing dailies while they were around, a couple of weeklies while they were around, a monthly that’s still around, and online, too.
If your last name is Rogers, you haven’t lived until the other daily in town makes you the lead story, complete with your face superimposed on a picture of that other Mr. Rogers in his red sweater. As I recall, the story was about as true as the picture, their journalism maybe not quite as developed as their sense of humor.
My outrage at these insults? Well, not so much. We wound up hiring two of those editors and I really, really wanted to hire another. I asked others to write columns for the paper, criticism of us included. Two took me up. Good for the paper, with that much more to think about. Good for the blogger, with that many more readers.
One critic steadfastly declined. It could have been something I said, unable to resist being a smart aleck: “Listen, if you’d like an actual audience … .”
I try to look at it this way: Don’t take what people say about you personally, especially when they mean it personally. (My wife flares up when I apply this philosophy to her, but otherwise it works pretty well.)
I don’t mean to come off like some kind of superior person here. No, too many flaws for that. Most likely, a deep personality disorder renders me unable to get concerned quite enough about what others think. Or maybe aging does have a silver lining.
In any case, here’s why I don’t hate the haters:
— They care. They care about the paper. They care about the issues. Whether I think they could channel their energy a little better, well, that’s not up to me.
— They hold us accountable. Let’s just say they’re not always wrong. I’ve smacked plenty of noses with rolled up papers and sent along posts to our folks asking us to, ahem, catch up with something we might have missed.
— They’re entertaining. Some pursue what they see as the truth rigorously. Some are more interested in insult than anything else, and they can work up some stingers. I enjoy the intentionally humorous the most, but the inadvertently funny are good, too. Like the blogger who picks on the paper for misspelling names and, yep, misspelled mine.
— They help with marketing, which relates to the first line. They care, they raise hell, and they get at least a few folks to go to the source to see what all the fuss is about.
— They keep my ego in check. Anytime I start to think maybe I really am all that, I can see otherwise. Plainly. They are there to help, with real enthusiasm.
— I get to know how it feels. This might be most important. The paper is the bully pulpit, and editors and publishers have a responsibility to use it properly. Understanding directly what it’s like to be criticized, particularly when the criticism is wrong or otherwise unfair, provides real perspective.
So I appreciate these folks — the bloggers, emailers, letter writers, columnists, contacts at the grocery store.
Even when they’re firing with both barrels.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.
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