Friday, January 16, 2009

Editor of the week

Everyone who laces up the editing cleats and takes to the field has to deal, at some point, with a complaining member of the audience. Sometimes it's a malicious complainer. Sometimes it's a very stupid complainer. Sometimes it's a powerful complainer. Sometimes it's all three.

We can't all have the presence to respond with "Cancel your own damn subscription." We can't all be like an excellent colleague from several newspapers back who violated the Cooperative Principle all over a caller one night on the sports desk:
Drunk in bar: Whaz the score of the Carolina game?
Sports desker: 24-22 (begins to hang up)
Drunk in bar: Wait. Uh. Who won?
Sports desker: 24 (finishes hanging up)

But we'd probably all count it a good day if we could respond to a critic in detail, pointing at the documentation while invoking Higher Journalistic Principle and never -- no matter how enticingly the Evil One whispers -- bringing up the critic's mama and the entire 18th Airborne Corps in the same sentence. Please join your editors here, then, in honoring our first Editor of the Week recipient, Pat Dougherty of the Anchorage Daily News.

Mr. Dougherty has a particularly vexing problem, When he writes back to a particular (mendacious, powerful, etc.) critic to request details of a complaint and offer a few in response, he gets silence -- until he finds the critic has used a preexisting bully pulpit to call him and his crew a bunch of hacks. If you haven't figured out yet who his antagonist is, it's someone who has (a) access to the governor's press office and (b) the unmitigated gall to play poor-pitiful-me with phrases like "I acknowledge that you own the ink." Also. Getting the picture yet? And she has a journalism degree also. So he -- quite responsibly, in my view -- responds by putting the e-mail exchange into the record, along with follow-ups as needed.

I had been sort of hoping Sarah Palin would just go away, and she sort of did. But she seems intent on proving herself just as shamelessly dishonest outside the spotlight as she was during her few bizarre weeks in it. For staying on topic, taking we-report-you-decide seriously, and resolutely refusing to tee off on the governor despite mortal temptation, Pat Dougherty is Editor of the Week. Please buy him a beer if you see him.



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