Weather Forecast


Column: A critical look at today's societal standards and norms

I've always found societal norms to be rather fascinating.

One of my favorite aspects of traveling is observing the various social norms that are adhered to - and seeing what happens when they're broken.

One of the norms we hold to as a culture is a general sense of respect for another's workplace, at least to their face.

In conversational mingling, the question regarding one's profession is almost always brought up. In most situations, we nod and perhaps find something nice to say about one another's work. We certainly don't insult their workplace, that would be just plain rude - unless of course the person works for the local newspaper.

It doesn't matter what town or city it is, the newspaper takes a beating in public opinion. Sure, every newspaper is imperfect and could improve in certain areas, but as a general rule, talking smack about the local newspaper - even in front of those who work there - is considered OK.

For example, if I was talking with a group of people and learned that one of the individuals worked in a management position for a fast food chain, I would never say, "Wow, that place is worthless." However, I have heard people say things along the same lines to newspaper people - and it's often considered perfectly fine to others in the conversation.

I've also sat in large community meetings where politicians have criticized stories printed in the newspaper. In one situation, I listened as a politician said the paper wasn't getting both sides of the issue. I chuckled to myself because, months earlier, this same politician had stood me up for a scheduled phone interview.

I, of course, am more frustrated than most about this, because I'm a newspaper person.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of people who write for a newspaper - especially in this digital age - are mildly insane, myself included.

Day after day they become mini experts on various topics and put out their work for public scrutiny, all for a salary that is notoriously dwindling across the board, in all forms of media.

To me, that erases the false assumption that journalists do their jobs for money or the glory of seeing their name in print. The vast majority of us do it because we have a passion for newspapers - both from a government watchdog viewpoint and a storytelling aspect.

A former editor once came back from a career day at the local high school. When we asked him the message he sent to youngsters about journalism, he said he informed them that, if you want to be a reporter, you must be able to take a lot of criticism. He wasn't kidding.

I'm definitely not a journalism dinosaur, but I've already had my fair share of run-ins with angry readers. I would bet my pinky toe that most journalists have at least a few stories that would make your jaw drop.

But, they likely have some fantastic stories that would make your heart melt - situations where they wrote a story about someone in need of help, prompting readers to step up to the plate. Sometimes those stories make it all worthwhile.

The folks who work at this paper are never going to make all of you happy all of the time, but we sure dang will try - because we have a passion for this newspaper.

So, if you happen to meet me somewhere in the community and scoff at my place of business, I won't fight back and cause a scene. I'll likely just smile and add you to the list of people whose understanding of societal norms fascinates me. That is, after all, the polite thing to do.