A tale of two phone calls
A couple of weeks ago, I answered two telephone calls within a day or two of each other.
The first was a woman calling from out of state, obviously distraught. She wanted to have her motherís obituary published and she wasnít sure exactly how to accomplish that. I donít normally handle obituaries, but the woman who does was taking a well-deserved vacation. So I did the best I could to help, taking the womanís contact information and providing her with mine. I also told her how sorry I was for her loss, and I meant it sincerely. Iíve been there, and I know that pain all too well.
A day or so later, she sent a photo of her mother for the obituary. More specifically, it was a photograph of a photograph. She was worried about how it would reproduce, but after I did a little work with PhotoShop, it turned out well. I emailed the edited photo to make sure she approved. When she responded she told me that I had helped calm her nerves and relieve some of her stress. I was glad to do it, because itís my job to be professional and also because itís important to me to be kind when I can.
A day or two later, my phone rang again. This time, it was a local business owner. The conversation started out pleasantly enough, as she explained the reason she was calling. Her boyfriend, it seems, was arrested a couple of years ago and booked into the Carroll County Detention Center. We publish a list of such individuals every week in our Weekend edition, and there are readers who pay particular attention to that list. We also upload that list to our website, where it remains.
The woman explained that no charges were ever formally filed against her boyfriend, and asked (demanded, actually) that we remove the listing from the website.
I, in turn, explained to her that our policy is not to remove stories from our website. Furthermore, we did not report that the gentleman was convicted of anything ó merely that he was booked into the jail, which in fact he was.
ďCan I sue you for slander?Ē she asked.
ďWell, it would be libel,Ē I replied. ďSlander is spoken; libel is written. You could certainly sue, but you would not win.Ē
Within an hour of our conversation, the woman canceled all of her advertising with our publications. Itís not the first time thatís happened, and it wonít be the last. Nor will it change our policy. Itís ironic that we are willing to lose advertising dollars to maintain our principles and credibility, when so many folks on social media seem to believe we publish or ignore stories because we are paid to do so. If that were the case, I probably would drive something a little nicer than a 2016 Corolla.
If I learned anything from marriage counseling (and I clearly didnít learn much) itís that the way someone reacts to me is their choice, not mine. I handled both of those two phone calls as professionally as I could. One caller was pleased, and one was furious.
And so it goes.