People often ask me what the glamorous life of a newspaper publisher is like. I’m sure it varies depending upon the publication and the town but, overall, being one of Lagniappe’s publishers is a really rewarding experience.
Maybe even after nearly 14 years we’re still new enough that we get a lot of compliments for just doing our jobs. I’ve worked for other newspapers where people might sometimes “reflect on your parentage” when you go to cover a story, or at least tell you the paper sucks. I must admit we’re lucky enough not to get too much of that.
Despite the kind remarks we hear daily, there’s still that fun part of dealing with the public that helps keep everything in perspective. Not all of them are as emotionally scarring as when a gentleman spit/sneezed down the right side of my face a couple of months ago at a local tavern. I found out later he and some of his buddies were not fans of our news coverage of local darling Kim Hastie and my columns in particular.
It’s still better than years ago when I was working in Mississippi and a county supervisor flattened two of my tires after I helped him become a soon-to-be-ex county supervisor. Not saying getting spit on is fun, but tires are expensive.
Certainly the bright spot of being in the media business in general is being included in tremendous numbers of email chains posted by people with emotional/mental problems. It’s not such a big deal getting them — that’s why God made “delete” buttons — but invariably these individuals begin to take it personally when you don’t write back or publish all of their fantastic ideas.
I had a great example of that early this week when one of the area’s more prolific chronic emailers decided I had dissed him. He sent me an email entitled “Clear the Air” in which he decided, because I had not responded to his brilliant email chains, I must have a personal problem with him, even though we’ve never met and I think about him as often as I think about Mr. Clinton, my high school algebra teacher. OK, I think about the emailer less. He wanted to meet and discuss my problems.
“If you’re going to continue thinking poorly of me at least sample the goods rather than chew on the menu,” he wrote.
I checked my schedule but couldn’t find any times blocked out for inane conversation, so I declined and said if I saw him around I’d be happy to say hello. Not good! In his next email he told me I needed to “get a life” and I take myself too seriously. I thought he was way off base. While I may indeed need to “get a life,” I’m really not all that serious all the time.
But then he hit me where it hurt in his next email.
“Rob, you sound like a man with a drinking problem …. Your bitterness is showing. You might want to check out AA for everyone’s sake,” he wrote.
I have to admit I looked over my shoulder. Was this guy watching me or going through my trash for liquor receipts? Then I thought, how smart would someone have to be to accuse a journalist of drinking too much? Pretty cliché, like saying lawyers drink too much, or politicians drink too much, or cops drink too much, or strippers drink too much, or circus clowns drink too much … Sure enough, in his next email, the guy went after Lagniappe’s whole staff as potential drunks, rattled off several former Press-Register staffers he thinks were sloshed all the time and said my replies to him were those of a “troubled soul and very typical of Catholics.” I’m not exactly sure why he jumped from booze to religion or why Catholics are such particularly troubled souls. Probably because we drink wine in church.
Thank goodness Al Gore invented the Internet so people like this can share their insights so easily.
Later that night I received a text from our editor, Gabe Tynes. He said a caller had phoned to “put someone on blast” that a local citizen is taking a whole stack of Lagniappes each week and using them to cover his garage so a pack of dogs can relieve themselves. I was already excited to go to work the next morning to get to the bottom of this situation. I tried imagining how revered publishers like William Randolph Hearst or Joseph Pulitzer would handle such a troubling development.
While we have always touted Lagniappe’s absorbency, and do often donate returns to animal shelters, we can’t really encourage people to run out and grab 50 papers for Rover and his buddies. It probably doesn’t occur to some people that we don’t necessarily fill 30,000 Lagniappes each week with lots of great articles and advertisements so they can steal a bundle of them for their dogs to pee on.
The whole take-one-paper-free concept is difficult, I know. These people are probably the types who stand at a free samples table in the grocery store for an hour instead of buying lunch.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet it didn’t take me too long to not only find out who the alleged paper thieves are, but also get a picture of them. But the picture was scary. Maybe we’ll just write a letter rather than going to the house. Problem solved. Hearst would be proud.
Please don’t get me wrong, I know Ashley Trice and I are lucky to have had this community embrace our newspaper to the point we and our staff can actually make a living in print journalism. We might even make a better living if people didn’t steal papers for their dogs to pee on, but hopefully that’s not a big trend.
As long as we make enough to drink our way through the crazier parts of this business, we’ll be fine.
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