How Do You Talk To A Reader

In Media on August 22, 2007 by Petr Bokuvka

Many, many, many readers of the daily I work for are in the 65+ age category.

These people often lack judgement, which is understandable. But at the same time it can make a journalist’s life a living hell. With all due respect.

A man came yesterday. He said his wife just died. He claimed she was a noted music teacher at an Art College in Brno and he wanted us to send a reporter to her funeral that is scheduled for Friday, I think.

I told him I can not promise it because we generally do not cover funerals, and we do not publish obits. Obits section in Czech media is generally placed among other ad sections and the relatives have to pay for the announcements. He would not listen. He said it is the responsibility of the press to do such community service like announcing that someone who was known to many people died. I was extremely close to telling him that I have never heard of his wife and that the rules covering what gets published are entirely ours. We decide, we publish.

I just kept shaking my head instead…

Older people who come to our reception desk very often prefer just talking, instead of telling us why they came and how we can help. They start off saying something like I have a problem that you should write about… but next thing you know they change the subject and talk about their childhood, thinking they will explain the issue better this way.

There are two kinds of people: some know that newspaper is a product. If it does not offer what they want, they make a suggestion in a letter to the editor (like: you should add one more page of local little leagues). If they don’t get it, they stop buying it. There are, on the other hand, people who will never stop buying the paper but they will keep calling and writing to let the journalists know what they think is right. And they will keep on insisting that a newspaper MUST write what people TELL it to write.

There is no pleasing some people…


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