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Parents ... again

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Calvin Hobbes, Oct 10, 2007.

  1. Calvin Hobbes

    Calvin Hobbes Member

    So today was my day off. But like many of them, I was at the office anyway, working on stuff that needed to be done.

    An e-mail comes in. Yeah, from a parent of a senior player on an unbeaten local football team. I'll paraphrase:

    You know, East Podunk has a 7-0 football team, and you guys never give us any coverage. Last week, we beat West Podunk and you gave our story and photo a lousy spot on Page 4B. This happens all the time. I always look for our games in Saturday's paper and they're always so hard to find because our teams never gets its due. We're always inside or buried.

    Our boys have worked so hard all summer and into the season ...

    You've all seen these before. I know I shouldn't have done it, but the mom included her name and phone number. I called, introduced myself, told her I'd received her note and that I wanted to let her know that we have given East Podunk quite a bit of play on our sports front. I told her that of East Podunk's seven games to date, the first four all made the front page, and two or three of them were the main package.

    But the last three were against three teams with a combined record of 4-17, and East Podunk won each by a huge margin. Last week, the Spelunkers won, 49-7, in a game played almost an hour away. As I mentioned, we had a story and photo, but it was from a sister paper in the other town, but it was a bylined story, and there were quotes from East Podunk, which is sometimes not the case when we get stories from other papers.

    Anyway, as soon as it was clear I wasn't calling to apologize for dissing her son's football team, she threated to hang up if all I was going to do was argue with her. We spent about 10-15 minutes on the phone, as I tried to explain why a 49-7 game against a team with one victory did not merit front-page coverage, and she simply talked over me at every turn, changing the subject every time I made a valid point.

    Essentially, her argument became, well, even if the stories were on the front, the type was too small. Well, since the copy type is all the same, I assume she meant the headlines. Then, after I explained that the same team (we have roughly 20 teams we cover extensively and another 20 "fringe" teams) is not going to get a 100-point headline every week, her argument became, well, the stories you people write suck because you never mention the seniors or the linemen. Her exact quote was, "You only write about the people who score."

    Well, duh. The people who score get press. But the fact is, we have written about their line. Apparently, just not enough, and not about the "right" lineman.

    You guessed it. Her kid is a ... wait for it ... senior lineman.

    Anyway, this was the first reader contact I've had since I returned to work after burying my mom last week. Cancer. They found it in the liver, and it had started in the pancreas. I'm still feeling guilt about covering a bunch of meaningless games all these years when I could have been spending time with her. I'm needlessly beating myself up, but ... that's what I do. I know those are feelings a lot of people have when someone close to them dies, but I have them, and they feel real to me.

    I know calling the lady was a bad idea. But since she submitted her rant as a letter-to-the-editor, I had to verify it before it ran, and she was just so wrong on a couple of things I felt she needed to know a little about what we do and how we do it. Should I follow up at all, given that I wasn't able to reach her on any level on the phone? I have a lengthy e-mail typed and ready to go, but I'm not sure it would help.

    Sure felt good writing it, though.
  2. ostentatious

    ostentatious Member

    i wouldn't send the email personally...you tried to explain it to her and she didn't want to go for it. she doesn't want anything but for someone to jump up and say, you are absolutely right. logic is out the window and you have more important things to do than to try and convince some mother that her son is good at what he does so she can convince him.

    poor is a state of mind.
  3. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    We got an email from a parent who feels our coverage is costing their son a chance at scholarship. The teams is 0-5.

    No lie.
  4. Last fall, after picking our soccer all-stars, had a lady call me and ask how I go about picking the all-stars. I said first thing, I talk to all of our coaches since I don't get to see very team. I look at stats and then I trust my eyes for what I've seen on the field. Her daughter was neither mentioned by the coached, showed up as anything special in stats and she didn't even play (I'm told it was an injury) in the three playoff games I saw her team play.

    Lady proceeded to tell me my ways of picking all-stars were all wrong and I needed to ... wait for it ... talk to the coaches to see who the best players were.
    Also, her daughter had become emotionally distressed and was thinking about quitting soccer because she did not make my all-star team.

    It was at that point I said, thanks for calling, I've got things I need to do.

    I'm all for debating and talking with people about what they think is coverage worthy or about all-stars because I understand people get upset. But if you're not going to listen, I'm done with you.
  5. TrooperBari

    TrooperBari Well-Known Member

    Seconded. You did everything you needed to do, CH, and from what you posted, you did it with professionalism and respect despite not receiving much in return. Good on you. If SeniorMom wants to continue kvetching, let her do the work.

    You have enough on your plate. Let her sort out her own issues.
  6. Sounds like you handled the situation perfectly, Calvin, which is no easy task. (I've had my share.)

    And God Bless you and your family.
  7. Calvin Hobbes

    Calvin Hobbes Member

    As usual, I come here and get good advice. I knew you guys would come through.

    Now, I also have this little problem about being a Cleveland Browns fan ...

    Naw, I'm not a sucker for lost causes or anything ... ::)

    Seriously, thank you for your caring comments. It's been a difficult couple of months for my family. Heck, going back to August of 2004, We've lost one of my best friends (and a co-worker), my brother, an aunt, my stepfather and now my mom.

    It seems silly now that I'd be worried at all about what some football mom from East Podunk thinks.
  8. Clever username

    Clever username Active Member

    I got an e-mail and a phone call from a parent asking me to write a feature about her daughter, a middling cross country runner -- after the girl broke her foot. The daughter, apparently, is feeling really down at the moment and a story would be nice.
  9. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Do these parents have no shame?

    Here's what I would have done:

    "Hey, mom, can I talk to your daughter?"

    "Sure, why do you want to talk to her now?"

    "Because, for the first time, I've heard a kid was going to quit their team since they didn't make the Daily Fishwrap All-Star Squad. It's rather newsworthy, and I think we should confirm this fact with the player."

    "But ... "

    "Maybe I should call the coach, too. You know, he'd be interested in whether he's losing an all-star caliber player, right?"

    "Joanie doesn't want to talk right now."

    "Thank you." Click.
  10. Calvin, sorry to hear about your mom. Just remember that at the end of the day, it's just a damn job to do.
  11. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    my sentiments on both counts.
  12. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    But, Buck. Their kids work so hard.
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