Last updated: February 18. 2013 3:45AM - 275 Views

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Annoyed callers are a part of the day in the news business.
People call to complain that we didn‚??t report what happened at a municipal meeting. A caller complained this week that our photos in the newspaper are too big. Another caller said we‚??ve made the type size too small. (It hasn‚??t changed, by the way.) Sometimes they call to complain about something in another newspaper. I‚??m not kidding, they do.
They say: ‚??You have rotten coverage of South America.‚?Ě ‚??Your coverage favors liberals.‚?Ě ‚??Your coverage favors conservatives.‚?Ě ‚??Why did you get rid of Mitch Albom? (He took time off to write a book, by the way.) ‚??Who is the sour puss who got rid of Pickles?‚?Ě
You got me on the last one. I was the sour puss. And we brought the comic strip back.
If we make mistakes ‚?? and we do ‚?? readers let us know. If they disagree with a change we‚??ve made ‚?? and they do ‚?? readers let us know.
I welcome the calls. When people take the time to pick up the phone and call, send an email or a letter through the mail, they obviously care. We get a lot of complimentary calls, too. Either way, they care enough about ‚??their paper‚?Ě to give us an earful about what they think and occasionally ‚?? where we should go. I‚??m glad to have readers who care.
Sometimes it‚??s not so easy.
Earlier this week a comment was made on timesleader.com on a story about former Wilkes-Barre city administrator J.J. Murphy. The state attorney general had determined no charges will be filed regarding alarm systems bought with city funds and installed in the homes of city officials . Four private complaints were dismissed.
It was front page news. Big headline. Only in The Times Leader.
At about 2 in the morning a comment was submitted online. It was off topic, it had nothing to do with the story in the paper and it was a personal attack on Murphy. It wasn‚??t true. The comment was flagged and removed before 6 a.m. because it became apparent it violated policy. The policy is online when readers register to comment. But a few ignore it or try to sneak something by. We enforce our policy and will continue to do so.
Still, Murphy and I spoke by phone and he agreed to meet later Thursday.
When he worked for the city, Murphy and I occasionally disagreed about what was news and what should be reported. Sometimes we listened to each other and found we had agreed to disagree. He‚??s since left the city administration and our paths have rarely crossed.
What struck me Thursday when Murphy and I spoke on the phone and then met in the early evening was he was a lot more calm and composed than a reader outraged that Calvin and Hobbes wasn‚??t in the paper anymore.
Murphy was most concerned that his family was upset. He served the city. He‚??s served his country as an officer in the United States Air Force. He doesn‚??t want that denigrated.
He recognizes the need for spirited debate as a part of our democracy. His concern was ‚?? is ‚?? that the anonymity of readers commenting online has polluted the dialogue.
Two things make this not so easy. Murphy was a prominent public official and he was and is subject to scrutiny. The other is that anonymous commentary has a cherished and protected place fundamental to the history of our country.
For a guy who might be expected to be very angry, Murphy was not. He was reasonable and said he was focused on moving forward and trying to make the situation ‚?? the community ‚?? better. Frankly, that impressed me.
It reminded me of how important it is to stay connected to the people in the community.
So I smiled Friday morning when I received a letter from a Sweet Valley woman who was hopping mad that two puzzles are no longer in the Sunday features section. She called the replacement ‚??stupid.‚?Ě If she thought I too was stupid, she kindly didn‚??t say so when I called her to explain. The decision to remove those puzzles wasn‚??t mine; the syndicate that provides them discontinued the puzzles. They aren‚??t there to bring back.
She didn‚??t want an explanation, however reasonable I thought it was. She wanted her puzzles. She wasn‚??t too satisfied. We shared some small talk and parted ways.
And all day long I‚??ve been thinking of reasonable people. We can‚??t have enough of them.
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