September 18, 2014

We take a lot of heat

By Matt Keeton
Staff Writer | reporter@ogemawherald.com
Posted 8/16/11

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We journalists stand proudly among government and school officials under the scrutinizing eye of the public, and rightly so.

As a source of information to the public, members of the media should be held accountable for the accuracy of the information they provide, and be expected to uphold journalistic integrity or face the consequences.

However, in my experience, it is not a journalist’s ability to report news that comes under the most scrutiny. It is when we express our opinions, standing naked before the public in an intellectual sense, that we are subject to the most criticism.

In news media, the only appropriate avenue for a journalist of expressing an opinion is in a column such as the one you are currently reading — separate and easily discernable from hard news and feature items.

I enjoy stirring controversy with my opinions, occasionally drawing angry remarks. It lets me know I’m getting under your skin and making you think a little. However, such remarks are best left for opinions concerning controversial issues, as opposed to softer topics, such as a journalist’s commentary on his or her favorite sports team. Personally, it is when I am demeaned for making lighthearted and even positive commentary that such remarks seem a little below the belt.

It is not that I haven’t grown a thick skin in my position; it goes with the territory. It’s just that it becomes obvious in some cases that angry and hateful comments are not born of controversy, they simply born of anger and hatred.

These comments are the ones that I have the most desire to respond to. For instance, when someone says something along the lines of “Reading this column was a waste of my time,” I have a burning urge to respond, “I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate my column, but I didn’t force you to read it. I was simply commenting on a rather trivial topic, and was not going out of my way to waste a portion of your life. And considering it is you, not me, who delegates your time, perhaps you would be wise to go find a more useful way to spend your day.” However, it would be quite unprofessional of me to do so.

Opinion writing is meant to either entertain or draw discussion, and while it is usually entertaining for the writer to watch his or her work stir controversy, there are times when angry remarks seem inappropriate.

So I apologize if I don’t share your opinions, or if you find the topics I address meaningless. And if you wish to grill me for my view of important social issues, go ahead and take your best shot. You won’t hurt my feelings and will most likely put a smile on my face. You may even get me to rethink my position on the issue.

Save your scrutiny for news and opinions regarding important issues, or you may find yourself wasting your time.

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