Magazine article The Masthead

How to Calm Irate Callers

Magazine article The Masthead

How to Calm Irate Callers

Article excerpt

THE EARLY-MORNING CALLER is steamed over an editorial urging a waiting period on gun purchases: "You refused to run my editorial on the subject," he fumes, "and here you have a long article that is totally unfair and biased. Where's my freedom of the press?"

Here is a subscription cancellation about to happen. How to avoid it?

First, stifle the urge to straighten out terminology. In more tranquil moments, the complainant might care that his "editorial" was really a letter and the paper's "article" was really an editorial. But the red flags are "totally unfair and biased" and alleged hogging of freedom of the press. It's either satisfy the caller -- but quick -- or end up telling your boss how another customer has bailed out.

The first part is easy. It entails digging out the reader's unpublished "editorial" and explaining why is wasn't used. (Over-length is the usual reason.)

Next comes explaining freedom of the press. A shortcut -- one to avoid -- is telling an already irate caller that the one enjoying "freedom of the press" is the one who owns the press. But say that and you imply that you approve of a caste system.

The key issue is not the Founder's intent, but rather the caller's desire for equal space -- space that he would now use to blast the paper. A tactful approach is to get the complainant on your side.

Show how you routinely shoehorn letters into the page so as to accommodate every possible letter writer. …

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