Courtesy? Kindness? I'd take a little civility and be glad

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

In this business, we’re accustomed to anonymous phone calls, letters and e-mails. They regularly come in as news tips, praise and criticism.

While the information is appreciated, anonymous contacts can be frustrating. If they come in for a news tip and a name and number is not left, holes that might need to be filled in or questions that might need to be asked can’t be responded to.

When calls come as praise, it’s nice to attach a name to the voice on the other end.

But when calls are critical, it is even more frustrating because it immediately robs us of the opportunity to respond.

Such is the case of a call I received one day last week while I was out to lunch. Leaving a message on my voicemail, the caller worked herself into a frenzy, and was nearly breathless by the end of the call. After making a number of insinuations the Beacon’s staff was in cahoots to cover up a news story, the caller repeatedly referred the staff’s hard work and printed material as “junk.”

She insulted my staff and me by asking why we printed “junk” in the paper while completely ignoring another story.

The caller asked why we failed to write a story and went on to say she’d take the matter up with our corporate headquarters. At the end of her long-winded message, she refused to leave her name and number saying she didn’t want us to have it.

Oh, how courageous and brave anonymous callers can be.

Pardon me while I remove the teeth marks from my ear.

Had the caller spoken to me directly or left a name and number so I could have returned her call, I would have gladly explained we had not intentionally omitted the information, and we would be glad to look into it further.

If I had the opportunity to respond, I would have explained that although we try hard to cover everything that happens in Brunswick County, it’s a big place and we’re a relatively small staff. We work hard to keep up on things, but also rely on the community to help point us in the right direction.

Journalists are talented people, but I have yet to meet one that is omnipotent.

The honest answer is sometimes things slip by us. It happens in all media all the time. We’re committed to doing our best, and if we miss something, we try hard to follow up as quickly as we can.

But instead of being given a chance to respond calmly to the caller—and answer questions my corporate headquarters could not—I was left fuming.

Why waste one’s breath making accusations and then remove all opportunities for a response? Why ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers?

What’s wrong with the world that people now feel entitled to call, approach, or send a letter or e-mail to a complete stranger in such an antagonistic, rude way? It happens all too often in this business and others. I cringe thinking of horror stories other professionals, like those in customer service, may have.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’d be on my way to retirement if I got paid every time someone called with a story suggestion and slapped me in the face with the old “since there is never anything good in the paper, I thought you’d like to know aboutee.”

Please, someone, take the knife from my heart.

What happened to treating others the way you, yourself, would want to be treated? And where is the common sense of knowing if you want someone to do something for you, you have a much better chance of having it done if you offer kindness.

Screaming doesn’t help. Yelling and threatening make things worse. Why then do people continue to be rude and expect to be treated courteously in response? I guess because they know as professionals we’re expected to take it with a grain of salt, grin and bear it and respond the way we’ve been trained to do.

And of course, we will, given the chance, continue to do so.

Courtesy? Kindness? Am I dreaming too big?

Heck, these days I’d give all that up for a little bit of civility.

STACEY MANNING is the managing editor at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or editor@brunswickbeacon.com.