Monday, July 28, 2008

The Argus Observes: Thank you Mrs. Antrim for your criticism

(Editor’s note: Here’s a short dissertation that, between the lines, suggests how much my father enjoyed being a country editor. In a month or so, I’ll expand on this theme with a series of blog posts I’m crafting describing my father’s tenure at The Argus-Observer in Ontario, Oregon.)

From the July 29, 1954 issue of The Argus-Observer

One or our readers gave me a real editorial lift this week.

In a letter to the editor published on the editorial page of this issue, she complains that we are too critical of the people’s elected representatives in Congress, that we are unfair to Senator McCarthy and continues:

“I am willing to let an editor spout off once in a while but when it becomes so frequent and so unfair as to indicate a policy that I consider very undesirable I deem it best to discontinue my subscription, so you can cancel my subscription as of now.”

This is the best compliment our editorial page has had in many months. Who would dream that way out here in Malheur County, far away from Washington’s halls of democracy, the expression of opinion on the editorial page of a country newspaper would arouse such definite reaction?

This proves a point. The extremely practical country newspapermen, the ones too busy to write editorials about anything as abstract as national affairs, are wrong. People do read the editorials and the letter we got this week proves it. Hooray for Mrs. Antrim! . . . .

We do get lots of criticism in the newspaper business because the chances for it run to several thousand for every issue and our work is in front of everybody, wide open for criticism. A person who is bothered by criticism has no business being a newspaperman.

Frequently --- more frequently than you would imagine --- criticism actually boosts the morale of the newspaper. We know from experience that people don’t stay mad. Some of my best friends are people who at one time or another have cancelled their subscriptions because of anger at the paper. They got over it.

What is just fatal for a newspaper is to be ignored, to not make much difference one way or another.

An editor never gets much personal reaction from people except little pleasantries. He often feels he is working in a vacuum because of lack of personal contact with his readers.

Although I don’t know Mrs. Antrim, she now ranks high on my list of favorite people. Even though we may disagree about Senator McCarthy and about congressional responsibility to the president, she has given my ego a boost.

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