Thursday, April 1, 2010

That pinko Post Register

In the 31 years that I’ve been involved in the newspaper business, starting all the way back in 1976 -- the year of my high school graduation -- I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of nasty phone calls, letters and, in the last 20 years or so, e-mails.

When I was a sports writer back in the early 1980s, for example, I’d occasionally get a call from an irate mother whose son I had written about unflatteringly. In fact, I got more nasty calls as a sports writer than I have as a reporter, editor or publisher.

Voice mail allows us to re-listen to particularly interesting calls, and two such voice mail messages stand out. First, there’s this one (please don’t continue reading if you are offended by mildly coarse language):
“Yeah, hi Roger, uh, uh, this is Michael ***. We’ve been longtime subscribers, you know, over 20 years. Anyway, I just had a comment on the new quiz you guys got going. Uh, I think it kinda sucks, you know. Uh, you know, the other one you didn’t have to be a genius to answer the questions, you know. This one makes you feel kinda stupid, and, uh, people don’t like to feel stupid, you know. So, why don’t you go back to the old quiz? It was a lot better. And, you know, it was fun. I had fun doing it in the mornings, you know. This one, I’m going, ‘what in the hell’? You know, and there was a multiple choice, so even if you didn’t know the answer, you know, you could at least guess one, you know. And this other one, it sucks, Roger, it absolutely, totally sucks. All right? That’s my two cents’ worth. And if you want to call me back, that’s fine, the number’s ***-****. But it really does suck, and I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that. So go back to the old quiz, please. Thank you.”
I love this phone call. Here’s a guy who is not only willing to be painfully and unabashedly honest, but he leaves both his full name and his phone number. This is almost unprecedented in the annals of angry calls to the publisher.

The second sample from just last week is more typical -- the caller declines to give either his name or phone number, and he clearly doesn’t want to engage in a constructive dialogue:
“Hey, I’d like to leave a message there that you could maybe give Mr. Brady. You know he’s never, over all these years, doesn’t have a clue why subscription is way down and everything, you know. I tried a newspaper over the weekend, was reading it and that, and it just reminded me how biased, pinko liberal your newspaper is, um, every single article and story in there, everything, leans towards your liberal tendencies, you know, and people just resent that, especially in this part of the country. If you were in New York, or someplace like that, San Francisco and everything, you’d fit right in perfectly; but you’re not, and I’ll tell you what, a lot of people resent that, and you’re just a bunch of, just a bunch of pinko liberals. I mean, geez, wake up and get your head out of your *****.”
Clearly, this caller is conveying a sentiment that is shared by others in eastern Idaho (though he’s wrong when he assumes readership is down -- it’s up). What I like about this call, though, is that he uses the term “pinko” not once, but twice.

I confess that I’ve heard the term “pinko” used in movies and TV shows, but never in real life that I can recall. In fact, I had to look it up. Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition: “A person who holds advanced liberal or moderately radical political or economic views.”

No surprise there, since “pinko” and “liberal” are usually used in tandem. But every single story in a rather large Sunday edition? I had to check it out. To be fair, there were some wildly liberal-leaning stories -- a piece about President Obama’s “good week” (with the passage of health care reform legislation), a feature on a man who used to work at the Idaho National Laboratory who thinks his exposure to radiation might have caused his cancer, and a short story about the impending cancellation of the TV series “24.”

And then there was this pinko coverage: A story about a new bakery in Salmon, an in-depth investigation into a coin-collecting meeting, and a shocking guest commentary about how to improve downtown Idaho Falls.

So it turns out, my anonymous caller was correct.

1 comment:

  1. It's the reason why I think you shouldn't run so many conservative commentaries. You bend over so far backwards to please your conservative audience, who nevertheless believes you are a pinko liberal rag, no matter how strenuously you're bending in their direction.

    But I could be wrong, I've been wrong before...I guess you must be doing something right if your subscriptions are up...