Lady Gaga may live for the applause, but, generally speaking, I and my colleagues don’t work for fame or fanfare.
Like any employee at any job, we are subject to scrutiny – from our bosses, from our coworkers, and from ourselves. We are monitored and measured by metricies. But unlike many other areas of employment, journalism joins a select group of jobs wherein practitioners also bear the brunt of public scrutiny in ways most others do not.
Like public leaders, journalists have very visible jobs. Which means our successes are “out there" for the world to see.
And so are our mistakes.
Many are the days we arrive at work to an influx of side-seat driving and Monday morning quarterbacking. Why did we cover this and not that? Are we blind? Why did we choose him and not her? Are we sexist? Why did we point out the flaws in this and not that or laud this and neglect that? Are we biased?
And in the end many of the final comments are predictably the same. “Of course you are. You’re the media.”
I could tell you funny water cooler stories of receiving complaints (on the same day) from one reader reviling us for a conservative bias and the other threatening that he will no longer be reading our “liberal rag.” It’s a classic case of “you can’t please everyone” followed by the immediate – though little comforting – knowledge that we’re not meant to.
While I’ve never held public office, I can imagine public officials relate to this experience all too well. Public leader, why did you fund this and not that? Are you biased? Why did you vote for this and not that? Are you in someone’s pocket? Why aren’t you doing this or why are you doing that? Don’t you care about the community? Obviously not. You’re a politician.
Many days it’s a tough yoke to bear. As journalists our job is to take and present what we believe will be important information for our readership. As local leaders, it’s your job to lead with initiatives you deem best for your constituents, even if not everyone agrees.
And, let’s face it – not everyone is gonna agree. That can be very disheartening. So let me be the first to admit it – sometimes (like Mother Monster herself) I, too, live for the applause.
On those mornings when the complaints come pouring in, and I wonder just exactly how long and why I can put up with it, I’ll receive that one email – that needle in the criticism haystack that just says, “Hey. I really enjoyed your article. We discussed it around the office. It really opened up a dialogue,” and I am refreshed, renewed and reminded of why I do what I do.
This morning, I’d like to take a moment to pen that same letter to you. “Hey councilwoman from Nebraska, thanks for making the tough choice. Hey public works leader from Utah, that was a really great idea, and I’m glad your community is moving forward with it. Hey procurement professional from Alabama, just keep doing what you do. We see that it’s working.”
With any profession, there’s always room for improvement. It’s true for journalists, true for local leaders – hell, even Lady Gaga is ever a work in progress. But while there’s power in constructive criticism, let’s not forget – or fail to recognize – the inspiration and motivation that come from the occasional round of applause.
– Erin Greer