Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways

Reading Gary’s blog about how a political cartoon he suggested for Capital Press led to the executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association being offended reminds me of times in the past when we in the media have offended people whether we intended to or not.

Sometimes it’s the subject matter, sometimes it’s a factual error, and sometimes it’s a typo, bad grammar or other mistakes that lead to someone being offended.

We journalists always appreciate when people tell us if they have a problem with something we did. Sure, it can be embarrassing for us or we might be disappointed someone took something a different way than we first intended, but we appreciate their honesty and courage to let us know how they perceived what we did.

There are definitely times when mistakes need to be corrected, but other times this gives us a chance to explain why we did things certain ways. It leads to good discussions and better understanding on both sides.

Sometimes people hesitate whether to let us know we offended them.

At a former agricultural newspaper I worked at, we had a popular ads section that allowed farmers to run want personal ads seeking spouses.

One day we received a letter from one of the people who had run an ad. He admitted at first he wasn’t sure whether to complain or not about a typo in his newspaper ad that appeared, since he had received a large number of responses.

Perhaps his worry was that some of these responses were more out of curiosity rather than being interested in seeking a meaningful relationship with this farmer.

So what was the typo?

Seems that he had requested we include in the ad that he was 6 ft 1 in. tall … but instead we had published he had a 6 ft loin.

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