I get emails. A lot of them.
Some are pleasant. Some of them are … not so pleasant.
A few months ago, my editor came to me with an idea: What if I wrote one column a month replying to some of the angrier dispatches? Then, what if we made a video to accompany the column, so readers could get a glimpse into what it’s like to open my inbox in the morning?
For some reason, I agreed.
It’s a feature we’re calling, “You rip, I respond.” It runs the last Sunday of each month, and you’re reading the third installment. The video is at thenewstribune.com.
I hope you enjoy.
Now, on to this month’s emails …
Hey POTHEAD, Marijuana is and was a controlled substance, generally illegal, under federal LAW! Since OBAMA chose to ignore enforcement of laws in many areas, you POTHEADS now can NOT DISCERN legal aliens from illegal, male genders from female, global warming from global cooling, etc. — Randy
Thanks for the note, Randy. There’s a lot to unpack here. And that’s not even taking into account the ALL CAPS.
You’re right that marijuana is illegal under federal law. It’s also legal under state law. It’s quite the conundrum …
I would go on, but I completely forgot what we were talking about.
Have you ever figured out your sexual identity? — Dale
In Tacoma there are a host of vacant or near-vacant buildings. Maybe these buildings could be used (to house people experiencing homelessness). There is a large building at 1950 S. State Street. — Keith
I see what you did there, Keith!
For those who may have missed it, Keith slyly described The News Tribune building — at 1950 S. State Street — as “vacant or near-vacant.” Because, I assume he’s pointing out, the paper has endured multiple rounds of layoffs (like so many daily newspapers across the country) and clearly doesn’t have as many employees as it once did. Good zinger!
He has a point. Our building is large, and there’s a lot of open space. I’m sure we could help house some folks.
Coincidentally, I just looked at our homepage. As I type this we’ve got a story posted by Kate Martin on the bizarre development tug-of-war in Point Ruston, a story by Candice Ruud about the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s decision to scrutinize potential greenhouse-gas emissions from Puget Sound Energy’s planned liquefied natural gas facility, and ongoing coverage of the fatal shooting of Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Daniel McCartney by Alexis Krell.
All of these stories were written by trained journalists dedicated to the craft. And none of this in-depth local coverage can be found elsewhere.
But, yeah, the financial struggles of local papers is funny stuff.
Matt, finally one of your articles that I can agree with, which can mean only one thing — you fell and hit your head. Please seek medical attention ASAP. Head injuries can be insidious. — D.S.
Thanks for your sincere concern, D.S. It’s appreciated.
Out of equal concern, it seems worth pointing out that perhaps it wasn’t me who suffered a head injury, but …
Never mind. I’m sure it’s me.
Hmm, who’s the editor who suggested this? Sorry you are on the receiving end of vitriol but not sure airing it accomplishes much or even entertains. I trust you to present a thoughtful and crafted viewpoint, because I’ve read you enough to have a sense of your ability and professionalism. Ceding your column inches to nasty readers seems misguided. And depressing to read, at that. — Mike
I’m glad you brought this up, Mike. You’re not the only person to voice concerns.
I think this conversation is a worthy one. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about since we started, “You rip, I respond,” and I continue to grapple with how to approach it thoughtfully.
Generally speaking, the responses I've received have landed on both sides.
Some readers really appreciate it. A member of the clergy that’s a friend of mine, for instance, told me recently that she's began forwarding this column to pastors as an example of how they can respond to hate mail. If you ignore for a moment the reality of pastors getting hate mail (really, people?), I think there's something to be said for this.
On the other hand, I've received notes from readers who, like you, find it questionable. One Twitter respondent said last months’ column felt “gross.” And there’s something to be said for that, too. At times, last month’s column did feel gross.
From my perspective, I think the value in what the column (hopefully) accomplishes can be seen in a few ways.
I try to find a balance between humorous rebuttals and thoughtful responses to criticism. To my eye, each column so far has at least approached that balance. For instance, last month I thoroughly explained my use of “swamp rat.” The month before, I spent at least a third of the column explaining the difference between Black Lives Matter and white lives matter.
In short, even when the emails are nasty, I try to provide measured, reasonable responses. I make a few jokes along the way and deflect some of the more pointed barbs, but the end goal is genuine reader interaction and a nod toward civility.
I also think there's a value in showing the reality of our online dialogue these days, both in what journalists have to deal with and the kind of vitriol anyone might face when expressing opinions online. I think it lifts the curtain and humanizes the experience.
Lastly, I hope it adds a little levity to people’s lives. There’s enough anger as it is.
Hope this helps better explain this column’s purpose. For what it’s worth, I consider it a work in progress.
After reading Matt Driscoll's article in the Jan. 4th edition of the Tacoma News Tribune, I find myself angry and very disturbed. — George
Hi George. It happens more than you might think. Thanks for reaching out.