Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Everyone's offended

There are many "offensive" professions in the world. Mine is one of them. Journalists doesn't offend as many people as, say, porn stars do, but when you're producing an entire newspaper's-worth of content for the general public every day, you're bound to offend someone, somewhere on a regular basis.

For example, recently my editor wrote an editorial in which she said she was offended by Rush Limbaugh. In the course of the editorial she referred to him as a crackpot. This produced an amusing chain of letters to the editor in which people wrote that they were offended by what she wrote about being offended, then people responded that they were offended by the first peoples' letters, and yes, the most recent editorial page included people who were offended by the people who were offended by the people who were offended by my editor being offended. No joke. I'm sure it will continue for at least another week as our town sinks further and further into mutual offendedness.

We also got a lot of calls on the issue. They were angry calls where people ranted about our "liberal propoganda" against a man "you don't like because he tells the truth." I didn't mind these calls too much, because they weren't mad about anything I had done, so all I had to do was say "Mmmhmm ... Uh-huh ... I'm sorry you feel that way."

It's not that people can't get offended. But let's pick and choose what to write angry letters to the editor about. I mean, where was that level of outrage when the city spent $100,000 on an ice machine at the same time they voted to raise water rates significantly?

There are sometimes I can see peoples' point, even though they overreact. For example, when I worked for the Daily Universe I got a bunch of angry emails demanding that whoever designed the front page that day be fired. The center story was about cars and the story down the side was about someone being run over by a car on campus. The headlines were next to each other, creating an unfortunate juxtoposition that looked something like this: "Zoom zoom zoom... Pedestrian dies after being run over on campus." Unfortunate? Yes. A sick joke and a fireable offense? No. The copy editor was only looking at part of the page on the screen at a time and didn't really realize how it would come together.

People are also often offended by errors in the paper. I mean, actually offended, not just rolling their eyes. I got a letter once from a guy who was really upset by the fact that I wrote an article about drugs and spelled "heroin" as "heroine" all the way through the article. Sorry, dude. I went to BYU, okay? I didn't have a lot of practice writing about illicit drugs. At least he didn't wax on authoritatively about why my article was "bad jernolism" like someone else.

I prefer to laugh about typos. For example, recently when someone was copying and pasting an article, somewhere along the way the words "A student at..." were lost, so the lede of the article was published as "The Dalles Wahtonka High School was transported to the hospital Friday with a broken jaw." Some of our mistakes are legendary. Like the time (before I started working there) when a photo somehow got blown up inside its photo box, so a story about a city employee was accompanied by a photo of his eyebrow. You're welcome, readers, for the unexpected doses of humor we sometimes bring to your day.

Life is so much more enjoyable when you spend it laughing rather than writing flame mail.

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