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Seattlest appears to be run by teenagers. Also, I am an unrepentant pedant.

If at any point, reading this becomes laborious, please stop.  I'll understand.  It is long, and probably uninteresting.  I promise not to make a habit of this sort of post.  I'm just venting a bit....

After having two minor spats with writers on local news site, Seattlest, I was disallowed from commenting on their articles.  Fair enough.  That's their right, and no one else seems to respond to them anyway.  I was, however, surprised to see a resident author tell me to basically stop reading their articles shortly before I was to be banned.  After all, isn't online business based (at least indirectly) on traffic?  Don't they want people to go their site?  So, setting the present petty argument aside, I e-mailed the editor, and had this untidy exchange:

Subject:  You might want to suggest to your authors they not actively drive away readers.

Myself:
In the comments section for 'Hail to the Co-Chairwoman!: Murray to lead "Supercongress"', I am engaged in a discussion with the author which has become unnecessarily heated. I have no problem with spirited debate, but I'm not sure this counts. Whether or not my initial suggestion and subsequence responses gave Everett Rummage sufficient cause for sarcasm, it seems to me poor business for writers to discourage their readership from commenting or even reading. I like your site, particularly its culinary coverage, but I can't say I'm impressed with Mr. Rummage's professionalism.

hanna brooks olsen, editor-in-chief [who apparently doesn't capitalize her name]:
Dear Sir--
To be honest, I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Rummage. The entire staff, actually, has been engaged in watching this discussion in the comments, and have all been behind his responses. While it may not exactly be best practices to discourage readers, your particular comments have added little insight to our future reporting, and have mostly been perceived as unnecessary trolling.

Best,

Myself:
It is true my comments have no bearing on future reporting. This is because they concern the article and discussion at hand. Whether or not my initial post was helpful, there were several things a professional might have done in reacting to it:

-he might have remained silent, ignoring something you all appear to think trivial anyway.
-he might have politely thanked me for my input and left it at that, despite considering my statement unnecessary.
-he might have replied in an even tone that he didn't find my input essential, but thanked me anyway.
-or otherwise found some inoffensive means of letting the issue quietly go.

He did none of these things. Instead, your writer responded with a condescending dismissal. By responding in kind, you think I am trolling? I had hoped you'd have higher standards of propriety, befitting Rummage's pride as a journalist. I am saddened to find you do not.

Regards.

hanna brooks olsen, editor-in-chief:
Dear Sir--
Respect and professionalism beget respect and professionalism. You show us yours, and we'll show you ours. You have not, thus, we won't, either.

Myself:
 Here's the thing, I don't work for you. It is not my job to promote your paper. It is, one assumes, a part of the writer's duties, and ostensibly why you even allow for interaction between writers and readers. That is the only reason I brought this to your attention.

Tell me, though. Do you really think my initial post was disrespectful? Do you really think it merited the argument which followed, and which had nothing to do with the substance of what I or Rummage had initially written? If the answer to either of those is no, then perhaps you should think about how you and your staff have handled this, and consider approaching things differently in the future.

Obviously, this is entirely up to you. I merely offer a suggestion. Take it as you will.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

hanna brooks olsen, editor-in-chief:
Dear Sir--
Yes, I have found you entirely disrespectful in every single one of your dealings with myself or any one of my writers. In fact, every writer who has received one of your unhelpful, vicious, incorrect, and ill-researched comments has felt the same way.
You are obviously a person with a lot of time on your hands. But what you forget when you are attacking people for their doing their jobs is that they are human beings, whose feelings get hurt by people who, instead of educating themselves or opening their minds, immediately respond impulsively and rudely. When you leave comments like yours online, you are being disrespectful. And to expect to receive respect in exchange speaks volumes about you.
Which is why I am telling you very politely:
Thank you for your imput. Your comments are no longer welcome on our site, and I will no longer be responding to your emails.
Myself:
So, when I wrote that Joy Division had stopped performing in early 1980, that was untrue? When I said that Patty Murray had turned the 'soccer mom in tennis shoes' label to her advantage, that was vicious and ill researched? When I thanked your beer reviewer, was that altogether unhelpful? Or was I incorrect in citing the OED for a definition? If you don't like me, that's fine, but why make things up? Please, don't pretend to remain polite after insulting me, all while crying about your own inabilities to take criticism. It's unbecoming.

Comments

  1. And here, as a bit of context, is the argument which sparked the ire of an internet newsroom:

    [in an article titled 'Hail to the Co-Chairwoman!: Murray to lead "Supercongress"', Everett Rummage wrote, in part, "Given that our Senior Senator will likely be powerless to protect us from the budget-slashing zeal that’s become epidemic in DC, Patty Murray's new position probably won’t mean much for average citizens of the State of Washington. Still, it’s a sign that Murray, once dismissed as a “soccer mom in tennis shoes,” continues to gain influence in the Democratic Party and in the Senate, which can’t be a bad thing for Washingtonians."]


    Tavis Post 2 days ago
    *Briefly dismissed as "a soccer mom in tennis shoes" before running (and winning) on that reputation.

    Everett Rummage 1 day ago in reply to Tavis Post
    hence her being a Senator and not some lady no one's ever heard of. I guess I figured people could make that jump on their own.

    Tavis Post 1 day ago in reply to Everett Rummage
    But not the leap that she turned the derisive comment into a strength. Hence my note, which I might condescendingly say should have needed no explanation, were I the sort of person to get overly defensive about small things.

    But, hey, way to build loyalty in your readership, guy.

    --I suppose it isn't worth noting that some politicians (e.g. Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton) have lost an election or two before going on to win others. Or that an attack may be effective in one race, and not in another.--

    ReplyDelete
  2. Everett Rummage 23 hours ago in reply to Tavis Post
    One doesn't often see someone describe themselves as "condescending," but I guess when a comment cries out for that description as loudly as yours does, what choice do you have?


    Does the factoid that you brought up bring anything valuable to the discussion of Murray's role as co-chair of the supercongress? Does it even illuminate the sentence in question? Would it be condescending to say that it clearly doesn't? By your logic, I was remiss as a journalist in not drafting a detailed biography to accompany this story.
    Maybe you think posting unnecessary "corrections" on a news website is a great way to look smart, but don't be surprised if it's viewed as irritating, particularly by the article's author. Among other things, you're implying that the author is not doing his or her job properly. It's a small thing to you, maybe, but I take pride in my work, and so I won't let that implication go unchallenged.

    I happily refrain from courting the loyalty of the know-it-all internet troll demographic. If your loyalty is depleted, and you stop visiting the site, I suspect the rest of the readership could make do without your revelatory commentary. I know I could.
    1 person liked this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tavis Post 22 hours ago in reply to Everett Rummage
    "Does the factoid that you brought up bring anything valuable to the
    discussion of Murray's role as co-chair of the supercongress?"

    As much, at least, as your comment that she was once dismissed by an opponent with a poorly aimed barb, which you failed to note was poorly aimed, yes.

    "By your logic, I was remiss as a journalist in not drafting a detailed biography to accompany this story."

    Not at all. I added a note to your article which was relevant not to your telling of the story, but to a punchline you decided to add.

    "don't be surprised if it's viewed as irritating, particularly by the article's author"

    I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. People who write for the public usually have thicker skins. But, yeah, I guess making a slightly misleading statement like you did is slightly poor journalism, particularly when the article would not suffer from having the line either fully explicated or excised. Whine all you like, but that's how I see it.

    To be perfectly honest, though, I hadn't really thought about whether this was a bit of 'good journalism' or 'bad' before you mentioned the idea. I just figured it was worth pointing out. That's all I intended with my initial remark. It is not responsible for your insecurities, my friend. Nor am I.

    I have to wonder, though. Do you have these arguments with your editors or copy-editors? Sure, I know, I'm not one of them, but if they had suggested the change I did, would it have pricked your pride and impugned your journalistic skills, or would it have just been something for you to think about or change? Someone telling you, you might add a word here or there for the sake of clarity or the like is hardly the end of the world, and barely worth getting your hackles up over.

    Settle down.

    Everett Rummage 12 hours ago in reply to Tavis Post
    You don't seem to have anything to offer other than nitpicking little asides designed to puff up your own ego. The comment system doesn't exist for you to make inconsequential stylistic notes (particularly given that they've all been baseless). You're not an editor on this site, and it's not your place to offer that kind of criticism, especially not in the public comments section.

    My editor tells me that you've been restricted from commenting. I guess we'll just have to soldier on without your input. I look forward to following your illustrious career in writing.
    The editor liked this

    ReplyDelete
  4. And so continues Pointless Man's reign of morally questionable terror!

    ReplyDelete

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