Don’t be a hater

I’ve stated in an earlier blog post that just because you read the newspaper doesn’t mean you’re smart.  I’ve read some pretty outrageous statements in the Readers’ Forum of the Deseret Morning News over the last few years, and no one emerges unscathed: liberal, conservative, LDS or not, I’ve seen some fairly prejudicial and just flat-out warped comments from them all.

Well, you know it’s a problem when the newspaper has to run a column asking people to stop being such jerks, and that’s exactly what staff writer Lois Collins did today.  Entitled "Think before writing angry diatribes to News," Collins sounds off on the hate mail the News has received following several recent tragedies along the Wasatch Front, particularly the Trolley Square shooting.

In the past couple of weeks, some of my colleagues have not only heard plenty from readers but from apparent nonreaders, as well, since they accused us of publishing things we didn’t or omitting things we clearly included. We’ve heard from some who were angry that we identified the shooter at Trolley Square as a Muslim, and many more who were infuriated because we are part of some imagined conspiracy to hide the fact that he was a Muslim. And if he’s a Muslim, they suggested, he’s automatically a terrorist and we should use that word, too.

We did, by the way, say he is Muslim as soon as the information was provided, but not one article has suggested that’s why the rampage occurred. We don’t know why it happened.

Some of the e-mails have been vicious. In several missives, the writers have suggested that two of my colleagues — very skilled reporters and among the gentlest and kindest of humans — should be "killed" for the stories they’ve written. Next time there’s a shooting, one snarled, I hope you get hit.

Apparently, these days you don’t even have to read the newspaper in order to comment on it.  (As shocking as that thought first seemed to me, I realized that many conservatives have been doing that with The New York Times for ages.  At least only a few of them demonstrate their ignorance by actually writing in.)  Collins may be referring to this story that appeared in the News a few days after the shooting that really had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Collins’ column isn’t just a plea, however.  She concludes with a great bit of advice, the newspaper variant on "’Tis better to be unjustly thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt":

Years ago, I was livid about something earth-shattering — so important, in fact, that the details completely elude me now. What I do remember, though, is slamming out a letter of protest that was both vivid and vicious, the anger palpable in every word. After my then-roommate read it, she patted me on the shoulder. "Don’t you feel better now?" she asked. "Now throw it away and write a letter you’d be willing to sign your name to."

That’s advice we could all use.

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