Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hating "hate-mail"--response and guidelines

#clarkclass students--reprinted from Coffee with Clark. Read and tweet something.

"Hating" hate mail--questions and guidelines

  • Why are they so angry?
  • Why are they so unhappy?
  • Why do they hate?
  • Why can't they abide different opinions?
  • Why can't they respond in a civil manner?
  • Why can't they respond without profanity? Without using trite labels devoid of thought? 
  • Have they ever read Jesus' words about love and judgment and kindness?
  • Didn't their mothers teach them any manners?
These are some of the questions that ran through my mind after being subjected to "hate mail" this week.

A better question--How do you respond?

National news about Enid
My comments in the New York Times article about the negative reaction to the Enid News & Eagle's endorsement of Clinton have drawn a deluge of  positive comments on "social" media.
That's because I posted the article and bragged about being quoted, proud of contributing to recognition of the importance of community journalism. 
Here's the link to the story online: Oklahoma newspaper
Then there were a few very angry comments in twitter and Facebook, throwing labels and judgments about me, the newspaper, media, and professors.
One I immediately blocked, and reported for abuse--not even responding.
Another, I wrote some facts, no opinions, in response to some of the inaccurate statements, and then blocked the person.
I'm proud of myself for not responding in my usual snarky, sarcastic style.
I wasn't exactly surprised at negative reactions, except for their vitriol. I was afraid someone would take my comments as critical of Enid. I would have apologized for that, because Enid is a great community. In the context of the article however, I meant all small towns and their newspapers.
Those comments came from  my personal journalism experience and more than 30 years working with community journalists.
So how should I have responded?
Perhaps I should have responded with "Thank you for your opinion. Have a great day."
That, or any other comment, would have provoked more negative comments.
I also slept on the situation, before acting, and slept again, before writing this.
Here are some of the thoughts I had on how to react to "hate mail."
The comment from one of my twitter for media class speakers, and I'm not sure which one, was one of my first thoughts, "You don't have to join every fight you're invited to."
Then I thought about Jill Castilla, the dynamo leader of Citizens Bank in Edmond, who just spoke to my students last week. She's used social media to rebuild that bank into a national model, and her methods ooze positivity: "Elevate where you're at," she says. Her social media framework is "GAP--Genuine, Authentic, Positive."
Another teacher of mine also had advice:
  •  "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."  Matt. 5:39.
  •  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." Matt 5. 
So the best response to hate mail, is no response. Don't feed the fire. I don't want nor need more negativity in my life, and I'm not going to change anyone with those attitudes. They are not worth my time or words or mental health.
More than the actual personal attacks, two issues really bother me. The first is the hate-mongers' virtual ignorance about American government and the roles of the news media (That's a separate story).
Underlying it all  is the absolute disregard for civility and respect for others' opinions in today's America.
My former student from OSU, Roy Lee Lindsey from Cordell who now leads the Oklahoma Pork Council put it best: "This story is about everything that is wrong with our society today. When I refuse to do business with someone or stop talking to someone just because they have a difference of opinion than I do, I limit my ability to learn. Exposure to differing opinions and ideas is how we challenge ourselves and grow."

My mother taught me manners--be polite, don't criticize people, be respectful. The people we looked up to, including our country's leaders, were those kind of people.
My mother would take a bar of soap and wash out the mouths of  people who spout hate mail, including our so-called leaders.

But then, I thought of the words of Jesus again, which explains all the actions of the hatemongers, which is another reason to just turn away and not join them:
"But the words you speak come from the heart--that's what defiles you." Matt. 15:18.

P.S. Another note--my attackers are so blinded by anger and hate that they missed the point, taking it as a political comment. It is only perspective about what it takes to be a courageous newspaper in a small city. I would have said the same thing if the politics and situation had been reversed.
Here were my words that sparked all of this, accurately reported by Manny Fernandez, Houston bureau chief of The New York Times: 
  • "There used to be a saying that the editorial page was the soul of a newspaper, and if that’s the case, we’ve got a lot of weak-souled newspapers in the country because they’re afraid to offend anybody,” said Terry M. Clark, the director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and a professor of journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. “This is an excellent example of the way American journalism ought to be — standing for something — and, man, it takes guts to do that in Enid, Okla.” 
I'm very aware that many other people have been subjected to, been more than upset, and survived  a lot more "hate mail" in this past year than I. My experience is minuscule. The perspective, as with the article, is the point.


  1. I'm not sure I agree about not responding to hate mail. I think calmly responding to people can sometimes get them to cool down a bit, but there are always the large majority of people who won't back down and just ramp up.

  2. I agree with James; however, if it were me in that situation, I may not be in agreement as much. It is easy to make decisions hastily when faced with hate mail.

    Context matters when considering a response. Generally, I think it's best to respond, even if it's as simple as, "Thanks for your opinion." The purpose of social media is to generate conversation. As Desiree said on the first day of class, respectfully engage critics, but "don't get in a war of words." There is not a cookie-cutter way to respond to hate mail, but we do have the basics of being respectful, knowing when to stop, etc.

    Depending on the severity and frequency of the comments, blocking the user may be the best option. We can try to make peace after receiving hate mail, but that does not mean the other user will accept that. Sometimes the answer may be cutting them off completely.

  3. Beyoncé didn't get to where she is today by responding to the haters.💅🏾

  4. In my opinion, not responding to them is the greatest response of all. They're just mad because they didn't make it in the NYT. RISE ABOVE PROF. CLARK!

  5. In my opinion, I think blocking the user of hate mail is faster than replying to it.

  6. I agree with the way you handled things. I'm more of a delete the comment, report/block the user type of person. I very rarely respond to negative comments. But when I do, it's because I'm feeling saucy.

  7. I think it was Desiree Hill who made the comment about not joining every fight. Me and her had experience with a guy on twitter who was being rude to us and I really had to keep my cool and stay professional and poised but it was a challenge. I think I let a little sass spill but it wasn't inappropriate. I do however agree that no response is the best response but that doesn't make it easy.

  8. I agree that you should not engage in the fight. I've my own experiences on Facebook with people not agreeing with me and we went on a rant about who was right and threw points back and forth in each others faces. The truth is you are not going to change their minds, they believe in something! That's not going to change so don't waste your time and try to change their opinion. Especially when they are doing it in a rude, unprofessional way.

  9. Replying to any hate mail, no matter how great a response you have, will not end anything. You'll just be in a never-ending battle. But conversations are important. I think about people like Tomi Lahren, she has a lot of haters but she's got people talking, and that's what we need.

  10. It's absolutely no point in responding to hate mail. Unless you feel like it's poses a direct threat to yourself or your family, I'd ignore it like it didn't even matter.

  11. Sometimes people say negative things just to make themselves feel better. Hate mail is so pointless. It accomplishes nothing. As long as you know who you are and believe in what you're doing then that's all that matters. Sometimes I believe that if you get hate mail then you must be doing something right.