By Dan Pool
Last week, in our final proof of the front page, we spotted one spot where we had “Black the Blue” instead of Back the Blue. That is a simple typo to make, a misplaced “l,” but also the kind of gaffe that keeps editors nervous.
I worry that in this overly-sensitive, ready-for-a-fight atmosphere, would readers who spotted the extra “l,” think, “Someone missed that in their proofreading,” or would they think “that newspaper did that as an intentional insult to the police. I need to organize a protest.”?
This is what keeps me up at night - the mobs, on both the right and left, scanning every public utterance to see if there is anything they can find to whip themselves into a frenzy showing how committed to whichever political side they adhere to.
A couple examples from newspapers give reason for anyone who works in any kind of publishing to be on guard.
First, in Nashville, their newspaper, which had a more than century-long history of public service and of supporting civil rights, ran a paid ad featuring images of President Donald Trump indicating that Muslims wanted to detonate a bomb in Nashville and launch a third world war.
The public outcry that followed led the newspaper to donate proceeds from the ad to an Islamic group along with a substantial advertising credit and cost their ad manager his job. Yet, there are still efforts to make the newspaper show even more contrition. There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed even with paid ads and claiming there was a threat of a bomb being set off is well over it. But what bothers me is that this newspaper had a stellar record of promoting inclusive tolerance and one poorly reviewed ad has critics yelling for its closure.
In Philadelphia, a 20-year veteran journalist resigned to quiet a firestorm brewing over his headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” in response to damage during protests.
No mercy shown.
I spotted on our Progress social media where following our coverage of the Back the Blue event, someone queried whether we had covered the Black Lives Matter similarly. Luckily one of our readers immediately replied that yes we did. I can only imagine where they could have gone otherwise.
Those are examples from newspapers, but they could easily come from anyone who speaks in public, creates a new sign, or any business owner/manager who makes a social media post blunder.
As a community newspaper we are always open to hear from our readers, even when they are angry. I believe that when we have an irate reader, it first shows that people are reading closely each week, and second that they care what we write. So, thank you to all who have taken time to call and comment on our work, both good and bad.
We don’t expect our readers to agree with everything we publish. Heck, we publish contrasting views often. But please keep your vitriol in proper relation to whatever we did to offend you. If you really want to cancel your subscription because of one letter or column, that is certainly your choice (and a few people have done it) but we hope you’ll accept that we are open to all the different views in the community.
It’s the people anxiously looking for one minor slip by anyone, anywhere that causes my indigestion - those who believe that everyone should be fully judged on one comment, statement or act.
People who are looking for someone to lambast in order to show how righteously dedicated they are to some cause or party – find a villain to fight against in order to rally the troops.
I hope that for most thinking people if you spot something like a “Black the Blue,” go ahead and read the rest of our coverage and gauge the overall context. If you think we missed the mark, by all means let us know with a call or e-mail.
But don’t forget that typos happen or a rushed headline that seemed clever at the time, you regret once you see it print -- just like a poorly chosen joke at a party. This hyper-vigilant atmosphere where everyone is looking for something to get mad about is no fun for anyone. If you want to challenge someone’s stance that’s fine, but keep in mind, it might just be a bad keystroke.
No one should have a lifetime of solid work discredited by a single utterance or mistake.