So last post I looked at the reader’s relationship with their paper, and promised this time to blog on how we as journalists feel about our readers.

“Having asked whether readers hate newspapers, I feel the same can be applied to newspapers hating readers.

Certainly in the newsrooms I have been in there is often abuse towards readers.

Just some of the accusations laid at our beloved readers are: stupid, a pain in the arse, demanding, racist, ignorant, fickle, fat, ugly, lazy, boring, wrong.

Can you honestly say you’ve never felt one of those against a reader?

Many a time a journo has put the phone down after a conversation with a reader and let loose with a tirade of abuse, whether it is for wasting their time with a non-story, pontificating over a minor point in a story, claiming a story is wrong, or threatening to sue for defamation.

The green pen brigade are sneered at and we have all laughed at some of the more obscure and passionate letters that make their way to a newsroom (personal examples are Jesus will save us from the GFC and a man who claimed to have invented the golden goals rule in football only for Sepp Blatter to steal it over dinner).

There’s the citizen journalists, whom the bosses see as the future (mainly cos they’re free), but we see as annoying amateurs twitching their curtains a bit too much and suddenly demanding to be treated as equals.

There’s the politicians we think are morons, the PR people who sold their souls to the devil, the eco warriors who smell and think you should too (I honestly met one who said dentistry was a capitalist conspiracy and was going it alone – her breath stank).

And even if we are not openly expressing our feelings about our readers, we are showing our contempt for them in our stories.

Here are two examples of national newspapers happy to think they’re readers are so dumb they won’t realise the story is a pile of crap and completely at odds with past stories on the same topic in the same paper:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/apr/27/dailymail-cancer

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/apr/07/dailyexpress-health

Do we really hold our readers in such low regard we believe they will just lap up this drivel and not cotton on?

Certainly Blunt in his blog Playing the Game believes we should not treat readers in this way:

http://blunt-a-blog.blogspot.com/2009/07/flim-flammery.html

He says: “The trust of your readers is a hard-won thing and all too easy to lose”. Quite true.

But perhaps as illuminating (although clearly somewhat in jest) is his sign off:

Be fair, be accurate, be balanced. The only complaint they can have is they don’t like the story.
Then you truly can tell them to go and fuck themselves.

Ir’s an attitude that is out there. But “so what?” you may cry.

Well, how can we expect readers to trust us, respect us and ultimately read us if we treat them like imbeciles and are rude to them. Not only is there the word of mouth if someone is shirty to a reader, there is also the premise that if you are writing to the reader, if they are your focus and your driving force, then holding them in poor regard is not likely to make your product any better.

Yes, they can be dumb, annoying and a pain but they are also the ones who ultimately keep us in a job, so while we may whine and moan a bit when under the cosh, we need to ensure we see readers as lords, manna from heaven that we should worship and adore.

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