By all means, take offense

Long ago in a land and time far away, I reported the news for an ABC affiliate in Kentucky. I was superbly mediocre. Still, I had my good moments, such as when I did a news series called “Justice for All?” which investigated how judicial outcomes varied with each person’s ability to afford representation. Not a stunning revelation, right? A millionaire with a phalanx of high-priced lawyers has a better chance shot at freedom than a similarly-accused person represented by a harried public defender. (Can I get an amen, OJ?) Still, the series rankled a few feathers, generating a critical letter to the editor of the paper (even though I was a TV reporter) from the head of the local public defenders office. I was gleeful. It was about time I pissed someone off, I thought.

It wasn’t my goal to raise anyone’s hackles; I only tried to present the facts. But the letter to the editor offered written proof that I was doing my job. All writers–not just news reporters–should embrace criticism, and not just because it toughens us. Criticism shows we’re not only entertaining, but causing readers to think and react. I don’t write to irritate anyone. In fact, I wish everyone would fall in love with each word and punctuation mark I type with my bony fingers. But if someone is offended by the ideas I have, it’s a good indication I risen a bit above writing total drivel. On the other hand, if everyone sends me bouquets, I need to find something better to do with my time.

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