I knew Id ruffle some feathers with my last column about common mistakes some conservatives make when contacting reporters and columnists.
By DEREK DONOVAN
The Kansas City Star
But a couple of my harshest critics came from the left, such as an emailer who called it highly unethical on (my) part to advise the right.
One caller was even more stern: You have no right to give Bible-thumpers and Johnson County snobs the idea that their stupidity is legitimate.
Id never propose that these rather intemperate voices are representative of what I usually hear from readers on the left. In fact, people who contact me from both sides of the aisle are civil, articulate and fair-minded as a rule. A great deal of the feedback they give concerns matters of objective fact, which have no ideology.
But my years of experience have led me to certain admittedly subjective and generalized conclusions about patterns I see among people of different philosophies.
This time out, I have some tips on communicating with the media that Id like to share with liberals. (And yes, I know not all of you like that term, but I hope youll forgive the shorthand here.)
Practice ideological tolerance. Conservatives are consistent in their requests for The Kansas City Star to run more voices from the right, from the opinion to the features sections. However, the loudest voices from the left dont always speak the language of tolerance. Ive found theyre more likely than the right to call for the total elimination of features they disagree with.
Take one caller a couple of weeks ago, who insisted that the paper completely drop the comic strip Prickly City, which is the only strip in FYI section with an overtly conservative political bent.
Dont get personal. No one corners the market on name-calling, but while the right over-generalizes about the media as a monolithic entity, the most vehement critics on the left sometimes make their criticism too personal.
I asked The Stars Mary Sanchez, who usually tends left, about the reaction when she writes something that angers liberal readers. Watch out, she said. It can be vicious.
One recent emailer copied me on a blistering 678-word attack on the editorial boards sole traditional conservative, E. Thomas McClanahan. In it, he denounced propaganda that you right wingers latch onto and the die hard Christian right fanatical adherents of Mitt Romney. This is not language conducive to productive, adult debate of the issues.
Dont make assumptions. I can recall only one time Ive heard a reader use the word that many people consider the most hateful pejorative for women in the English language. It was directed at religion editor Helen Gray.
Her transgression? The reader had assumed she was a member of an evangelical Christian congregation he disliked, based on a story she had written about it. That assumption was incorrect.
Dont lump all Christians together. Theres a lot more diversity in people of faith than I sometimes see in reader feedback. Also remember there are other religions whose beliefs many liberals would find restrictive and regressive.
Speak for yourself, not others. While many minorities face similar struggles, they are far from unanimous in their political views. Attitudes about social issues in particular can get quite complicated when viewed through the lenses of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Some readers purport to represent all minorities an impossibility.
Be realistic about protest coverage. A perennial request that comes primarily from the left is for The Star to cover protests. Thats fine, as they can have news value when they become large. But realize that sometimes participants can go off message and attract attention the organizers dont want. That can become part of the story too.