I MUST say, I find the level of paranoia festering away in some people very impressive.
I have no idea how they manage jobs, breakfast, chitchat or daily life under the weight of the view that the world has woken up with the sole purpose of offending them.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I recently wrote a feature celebrating the 50th birthday of Derwent Hill, the outdoor centre in the Lakes owned by the Council and enjoyed by three generations of Sunderland children.
I’m now planning a follow-up which will be a collection of readers’ happy memories. To Facebook I headed and made a request on a community page for people’s comments.
“I went kayaking there – it was great” “I went on the death swing twenty years ago”. Most got the hang of it straight away and kindly offered up their experiences and seemed to enjoy the chance to reminisce.
But there in the middle of the flowerbed I found a nettle.
One fellow had been moved to comment, wondering exactly “what the Echo was really after?” Perhaps the chance to portray Derwent Hill as a waste of taxpayers’ money? I promptly replied that this was not the case, but it left me a little dumbfounded.
And then again I came across the same level of feeling. It is my job to put the Echo columnists’ stories on our website.
Every now and again, heaven forbid, I forget, and they are added a day or two later.
But the absence of Linda Colling’s article about Kieran Richardson’s Christian faith prompted one man to pen an email of complaint denouncing the Echo as “anti-Christian”.
Presumably we are also “anti-stories-about-young-boys-planting-fireworks-in-dog-poo” because I also forgot to upload Richard Ord’s column about the habits of 11-year-olds.
And then my friend and fellow reporter told me that she’s been screamed at down the phone on account of the election piece she’d written about Millfield.
The screamer said it was lazy journalism that she’d gone out and spoken to residents, because they didn’t represent the sort of people he thought should be asked to give their views.
I think people like this would be disappointed to meet a member of our staff in real life. We don’t wear evil-looking cloaks, nor do we laugh in a demonic manner, and contrary to the instances above, we’re not trying to destroy the city where we live and work.
Nor do we kick puppies or push old people over before running away.
Our offices are very unlike Gormenghast and we tend to spend our working lives writing stories as best we can.
But if I’ve failed to convince this minority of whingers that we’re normal people with families and pets then fear not.
In 20 years time, when newspapers can only be found in museums, they’ll get a brand new opportunity to find something else to waste their time hating.
How about giving people the benefit of the doubt every now and again?
Ha! I won’t hold my breath. And I look forward to opening my email tomorrow to a slew of outbursts about how the Echo really is on the Devil’s payroll.
Do your worst, it’ll give me something to laugh about over my morning cup of tea, sorry, kitten blood.