Here's Johnny - Things that irritate me
If there's one thing that irritates me, it's when I'm working on a story for Dear Readers and the subject of that story doesn't return a call or request for an interview or insists on doing the interview by email. Actually, that's three things. Number four is having trouble coming up with a new topic for a column, so I suppose I should be grateful for Irritating Things 1-3. (Of course, Dear Readers know there are many more things that irritate me, so on days I choose to drop the Johnny at Sunnybrook Farm approach, I call upon them to fill 800 or so words. It's cheaper than a co-pay for a shrink, so I suppose I should be grateful.) Back to Irritating Things. Irritating Things 1 & 2: While no private citizen is legally or morally required to participate in a news story, public officials, who are paid by us and handle our money, are. It's part of the job. Not doing so is usually an indication that they'd rather not answer potentially difficult questions that the average member of the public doesn't have the clout to get answered. Funny thing is, when they don't, it usually makes my job easier. Especially in my TV news days, I got a kick from saying at the end of the story, "John Q. Public Official didn't return repeated calls." The good news, for myself and Dear Readers, is that very few public officials in Woodford County dodge calls from senior reporter Bob Vlach or myself. Irritating Thing 3: When someone insists on doing an interview by email, the result is usually a highly polished, un-conversational response that reads as if it was manufactured by committee. Email interviews also make it harder for me to ask follow-up questions, which are a natural byproduct of a conversation. (I gave a pass to a recent interviewee who was part of the team that bought CastlePost - he was a private citizen who, in the end, gave pretty good and quite conversational answers via email.) Irritating Thing 4: I've already covered this. I tell ya, it's not easy coming up with a new column idea every week - at least not a good 'un. Jury's out on whether this 'un's a good 'un. Other Things That Irritate Me (5-10): Irritating Thing 5: Folks who insist on documenting every moment in their life with a social media post. I hope people have a good meal, but I don't need to see what was on their plate Saturday at 5:47 p.m. when they went out to dinner with their Uncle Fred. Also, I don't care what Uncle Fred had, though I hope neither social media foodie got food poisoning from it, because I'd rather not know about that, either. Irritating Thing 6: I'm also perplexed by folks who use social media to "check in" wherever they go. I don't care where they go. I hope they have a good time there, but I truly don't care where they go. I don't do check-ins myself partly because I've learned that there are a few folks out there who, as hard as it is for Dear Readers to believe, are not fans of this Navy vet and journalist. Hey, if Clark Kent checked in wherever he went, the world would soon realize that he was the guy wearing the "S", and his effectiveness as a superhero and reporter would be compromised. Irritating Thing 7: There are some people who apparently feel that they haven't done something unless they've taken a picture of themselves doing it, or of them in the place in which it was done, or the people they were with. I'm reminded of the old saying - "I think, therefore I am." For these folks, it's, "I take pictures. Therefore I am." Irritating Thing 8: When my cat Zappa bullies my cat Roxie, and I have to break it up, in the process uttering words and phrases that cast doubt upon their parentage, and worse. I have better things to do - like writing columns about things that irritate me. Irritating Thing 9: People who shoot, via disparaging remarks or actual bullets, the messenger. It's a journalist's job to seek and tell the truth, not serve as a cheerleader or critic. (Editorials, or columns, are a different matter, but they should still show how we arrived at our opinions.) I understand much of the public's dissatisfaction with the media, particularly in the world of local television news, which is usually little more than a toxic mix of consultant-ordered coverage of crime/crashes/fires/weather. However, blaming legitimate news organizations for exposing countless half-truths and lies of, say, a high-ranking politician that you had big hopes for, is missing the mark. A free, healthy press is one of the things that keeps us from being Venezuela, Russia or Nazi Germany - and there are an increasing number of elected officials and their supporters who seem happier with dictatorships than democracies. That ought to irritate everybody. Irritating Thing 10: Inflicting my own crankiness on Dear Readers. I'll do better next week.