ALLAN JEFFERYS: Reader Feedback Helps Keep You on Even Keel
Whenever you have your own TV or radio program or write a column, there is one thing that comes with the territory: interaction with your audience.
This is good and necessary. Without that communication, you would flail away blindly, never knowing whether anyone was in tune with your thoughts or even tuned in at all.
When I did my first radio program, it was on a station small enough to warrant instant communication. If I said something even a little off the wall, the phones would light up and I, being the only one on duty, would have to answer them.
The "gotcha gang" would trap me in a mispronunciation (that was back in the days when people tried to pronounce things correctly) or a misplaced fact or even disagreement in taste. At that level in broadcasting, you were on your own; there was no editor, producer, director or even technician to guide you. You were hung out to dry like an old sock. You learned fast or dropped out.
As I progressed to TV and a bigger station in a bigger city (Washington, D.C.) I got more feedback. Here, I had a director and an editor, and the people behind the cameras took it upon themselves to react to your foibles. Time and again, a cameraman would peer around the viewfinder to shake his head or give me a thumbs up. I learned.
On to New York, where the same interaction continued, albeit on a bigger scale. By this time, most of us had learned to be on our guard, but we still got trapped. If your program was on the network (which mine was) you heard from big cities and small towns -- from the West and the South as well as the East and North.
Now that I am into my third year of this column, you would think I had learned how to avoid controversy. But, no, I am still learning. And it's fun. Most of the positive comments are sent directly to me via e-mail, whereas the naysayers tend to write letters to the editor. I read them all and learn, even from negative letters.
Of course a few people cannot apply facts and reason, so they resort to finger-pointing and name-calling -- smear by innuendo. That is as counterproductive as the same actions in a kindergarten recess yard.
For the record: I listen to no radio talk shows and so pay no attention to Rush Limbaugh. I do not consider him head of the Republican Party and prefer Michael Steele. Although I agree with the thinking of Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck, I can only stand a few minutes of either. O'Reilly's ego seldom permits his guests to finish a sentence without interruption and Beck's childish mugging interferes with his guests. I watch a lot of Fox News but also tune in to the three networks.
In addition to some tech magazines about photography and computing, I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek (temporarily), US News and World Report and the best magazine I have seen in years: The Week.
In other words, I make it a point to read and/or listen to a wide variety of points of view. Admittedly, I have been caught by some Internet urban legends, but not too many lately. I check with Snopes and seek more than one source.
When The Pilot asked me to write a column, they specified that it be from a conservative stump. This it has been, with an occasional foray into the entertainment world from which I came. Obviously, The Pilot and I come from different sides of the political spectrum, but they have always honored my platform and have never edited what I write.
On only two occasions (out of more than 100) have they asked me to pull a column about which they had concerns. I have done so on the first but am balking on the second. I hope we can work it out. I feel very strongly about this one because I am very worried about our nation -- as are many others.
I do not know whether the so-called stimulus bill will help or harm. I am not an economist but can easily see bankruptcy in our future. Other issues fly in the face of the Constitution and can cause catastrophic harm.
The reader is the most important element of a column, and I hope you will continue to give me your thoughts. I promise to read all and heed many.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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