When a mistake or a believed mistake is made by the newspaper, it does no one any good or accomplish anything positive, let alone the desired correction or clarification, to begin the conversation with a string of obscenities, threats, generalizations and accusations.
As much as I wish all public records were always totally correct and our reporters always correctly reported from those countless records, many of which are handwritten and contain terrible grammar, spelling and syntax, such is not always the case.
Yes, you read right. I am the first to admit we make mistakes. It certainly is not anyone's intention to make a mistake, to improperly spell someone's name, to transpose letters in a word or - heaven forbid - a headline. But, in the rush of putting out a daily newspaper with all the inherent deadline pressures that come with the production of a brand, new product, daily, mistakes unfortunately do happen occasionally.
But, it is our intention to correct those mistakes as rapidly as we find them or they are brought to our attention, which is more than I can say for most professions, let alone the thousands of communications we receive daily via letters, email or on our virtual newsroom website.
So, with that said, it does little to accomplish the goal of getting a correction in the newspaper to start off a conversation with me by calling me and my newspaper a string of vile, obscene slurs. In fact, such a conversation will usually result in my saying to calm down and talk with civility or the telephone conversation will immediately end, which means the desired correction or clarification may never see the light of day.
Nearly every call I receive when the caller is alleging, with an abundance of hostility, that the newspaper has made a mistake centers around a police report, sheriff's report, grand jury indictment or court proceeding, all of which are based on public records we have obtained from the court or a law enforcement authority, just as anyone has a right to obtain them.
Occasionally, an irate caller wishes to take exception to a comment attributed to a public record or a public entity, such as a police officer or prosecutor, about a specific case. Trying to tell a caller that we did not make the comment, merely reported it, only leads to even more hostility, vile language and threats, none of which I will take more than a second time.
The worse part, though, is it seems more and more callers start their complaint with a string of foul language and threats, and it should be noted this is the first community where I've worked in more than 40 years in the business where I've received death threats on my home telephone.
A growing percentage of people are getting nastier. Yes, there still are genteel people who call with a legitimate complaint or concern, which we try to accommodate as rapidly as possible, such as a woman earlier this week who wondered why a news release about her organization awarding scholarships hadn't been in the paper yet. I found the article and it's in today's edition. She was pleasant and I hope she's relieved and pleased with the result of her call. Interestingly, in finding the article I also found a typographic error in it that I corrected.
If she had called and alleged a conspiracy against her group and rattled on a string of obscenities, I don't know if she would have gotten the same result.
I prefer to think I'm a logical, reasonable person, who if approached with logic and reason will show logic and reason in return. Approaching me with vile, obscene language, conspiracy theory and threats will end the conversation, which also is logical and reasonable in my mind.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org