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Vent your spleen here

Nothing so invigorating to start the day as a good, solid blast of spleen, and no target better than The Sun. Or so it would seem from the calumnies that have come pouring down on the head of the reporter and the reader editor since we innocently omitted the race of the assailant in a sketchy description included in an article about a rape.

See this:

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/2007/08/race_and_crime.html

That arch-Tory Samuel Johnson once spoke admiringly of Lord Bathurst to Mrs. Piozzi: "Dear Bathurst was a man to my very heart's content: he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a Whig; he was a very good hater."

Hate is very readily transferred from the person or thing hated (a public official, a political party, a trend in fashion) to the thing bringing the thing hated to mind (a newspaper). Sometimes the two combine neatly.

In Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism by Eric Burns, we find examples of the abuse that newspapers heaped on the Founders: President Washington was described “variously as ‘a gambler, a cheapskate, a horsebeater, a dictator, and a most horrid swearer and blasphemer.’ He was labeled ‘treacherous,’ ‘mischievous,’ and ‘inefficient.’ He was said to favor ‘stately journeying through the American continent in search of personal incense” and to enjoy ‘ostentatious professions of piety.’ He was, appearances notwithstanding, a ‘frail mortal’; no less was he ‘a spoiled child, despotic,’ ‘a tyrannical monster.’”

Newspapers, in fact, offered a double charge. Those you agreed with fanned the flames of your dislike, and those on the other side occasioned an additional burst of contempt.

The violent dislikes fostered by American newspapers were burlesqued in Mark Twain’s short story “Journalism in Tennessee,” in which the narrator takes a post as an associate editor of the Morning Glory and Johnson County War-Whoop. His initial effort at an editorial is found too bland, and the editor undertakes to revise it:

“While he was in the midst of his work, somebody shot at him through the open window,
and marred the symmetry of my ear.

"’Ah,’ said he, "’that is that scoundrel Smith, of the Moral Volcano—he was due yesterday.’ And he snatched a navy revolver from his belt and fired—Smith dropped, shot in the thigh. The shot spoiled Smith's aim, who was just taking a second chance and he crippled a stranger. It was me. Merely a finger shot off.”

Our readers and colleagues seldom resort to firearms, but their dislike burns with a hard, gemlike flame. A few years ago, on the occasion of a prominent Baltimorean’s death, no notice appeared in The Sun. He had taken his detestation of this newspaper to the grave, and his family honored his memory by refusing to cooperate with our obituary desk.

Thus we trudge on, providing information and amusement to those who seek them, and furnishing an invigorating flow of blood to the brain to those who dislike what they read.

Posted by John McIntyre at 1:33 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Comments

John,

Thanks for submitting this entry; I am glad to see that the comments provoked some thought. However, I think you are missing the point. If people read a truly objective news story that is only based upon the facts and includes all the facts, then any feelings of rage or hatred should then be transferred to the event not the reporting agency. On the other hand, if the news story contains bias or partiality, for what ever reason or intent (good or bad), then the news agency has made themselves the target of such feelings. So the comments of hate did not just transfer to the (newspaper) because it was the bearer to mind, but rather by inserting your own bias and neglecting all of the facts you have made the agency the target.

So please do not try to justify your position by indicating there is long history of hatred toward newspapers because their reporting topics. Instead, come down from your pedestal and stop seeking the attention. Place the attention on the news by reporting all the details objectively. Some times the truth will hurt and instantiate hatred, but if reported completely and fairly, the attention will be on the story not the agency. Otherwise, if it helps you to sleep at night, continue thinking you are making the world a better place, and I will seek the truth from another source.


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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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