Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Journalistic karma

As a reporter, and now as a "news editor," I've gotten used to people getting mad at me. It's one of the best things this job has done for me, actually.

When I started, I was terrified of pissing people off. I would put off phone calls to CEOs and politicians for days, the butterflies growing in my stomach, because I knew they'd be mean to me. Nowadays, it still sucks when someone talks trash or is rude, but I know it comes with the territory, and it rolls right off my back.

Plus, I do the karmic math in my head. By virtue of my job, I've made quite a few lives better.
But a few, I've made way worse (mostly, I would argue, through no fault of my own, although I've certainly made mistakes). I've reported the one negative out of a mountain of positives, I've written stories about accusations that may or may not have been true. I try to stay balanced, but sometimes things just don't work out.

For the past few months I've followed a story that was leaked to me by some folks at the school district. Last fall, a couple dozen I.T. workers staged a modern-day revolt against their boss, the I.T. Director. That is, they signed a harshly-worded letter on union stationery stating he was a jerk.

BossMan was promptly put on a 5-month paid vacation while the district spent lots of money to investigate. They later let him quit with $75,000 severance, because, if the word on the street is correct, he threatened to sue.

I was only allowed to see the investigation's findings after the saga had closed. Appears BossMan is the spitting image of the boss from The Office (probably more British than American). According to the report, he:
  • told an employee her dress made her look like a Russian dancer, then crossed his arms and asked her to do a little dance for him.
  • Asked a 400-pound employee to tell everyone his favorite ice cream flavor when introducing him to staff.
  • Yelled at his employees for 45 minutes for not completing a task that he had never assigned.
  • Made comments about people's height, including, "You're really short."
(All right, this guy sounds like a doophus. But I'd like to see what came out if someone started cataloging everything I do in the course of a day. Yikes.)

Throughout six months of following this annoying story, there was one problem: I couldn't defend the guy. No one at the school district, legally, can comment on investigations; BossMan had an unlisted number and didn't return my emails.The best I could do was constantly repeat, "BossMan did not reply to requests for comment," and "SchoolDistrictMan said he legally could not comment on an investigation" to feebly point out any inherent one-sidedness to the reader.

A lot of things about this story got people riled - the district's handling of the investigation, the fact that this guy walked away with $75,000, the fact that the union made such a big deal over such arguably silly claims. Our newspaper's website has been flooded with comments for months, mostly from I.T. workers wanting to get in their own dig at BossMan and the administration.

I gave a sigh of relief when I put this story to rest two weeks ago - but it hasn't gone away. People are still flocking to the website - and, in growing numbers, the mob is now coming after ME. Recent comments include:

  • "Ms. O- why don't you start asking some questions, and present both sides, rather than contributing to the ongoing warpath that the union is currently on."
  • "Why don't you dig a little deeper Sarah O-? Isn't the basic premise of 'Journalism' to present the facts and let the readers decide?"
  • "Why is it that the Sunpost has written a story that presents several union employees 'Opinnion's' (sic) as FACT?"
I suspect this is BossMan himself, out to avenge himself, but I don't really know. In any case, fine by me. Let 'em have a go at me for a little while - maybe it'll do a little something for that karma.


Tim said...

What's wrong with asking a fatty what his favorite ice cream is? If a a co-worker looks like a Russian whore, you should tell her. It makes people feel good to get a compliment.

Katy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tanya said...

I only have one question for you: is he single?