A letter in the local paper caught my eye. A reader was criticizing a Debra DeAngelo column on Christmas. He called the column (which I have not read and therefore have no opinion of) “appalling.”
He probably had the line of the day – “She is clearly a left-wing Democrat, but has failed to take to heart liberal compassion.” He then quipped: “Would Michelle Obama say: ‘When they go low, we bitch slap them?’”
What caught my eye was what he wrote next: “When I talked about the column to my friends, the question came up ‘what is wrong with her?’ I thought maybe DeAngelo’s extreme partisanship had made her forget her humanity. When I wrote to her about it, she said she was delighted with the column and advised me to not read it if I didn’t like it.”
It was the advice to “not read it if (he) didn’t like it,” that caught my attention, because I got a similar reaction last year when I tried to have a discussion with her on one of her columns.
In August of 2015 she wrote, “Whites want to join the Black Lives Matter conversation, but we’re afraid to.”
As I responded in a column, “As someone who has been part of the conversation for years – quite frankly, I was taken aback by her theme.”
Ms. DeAngelo wrote: “But here’s the thing: Most white Americans want to support the continued efforts toward racial equality, but we’re becoming afraid to join the conversation. The temperature in the room is very hot right now, and frequently when whites attempt to chime in, we’re shouted down with ‘white privilege!’ which has the same effect as ‘Shut up!’ And so, fearing being called racist above almost anything else — we do. But: Shutting whites out of the conversation hurts, not helps, the effort toward racial equality. We need each other.”
As I exhorted her in my column, “If, Ms. DeAngelo, you want to be part of the conversation, then start speaking. Start using use your podium to advance understanding. Join with others in your community to be part of that voice for change.”
But the problem is Ms. DeAngelo doesn’t want to be part of any conversation – certainly not any conversation where she is subjected to criticism or disagreement.
In a Twitter exchange, I said, “Your column is certainly not reflective of my experience.”
She responded, “Well, that makes sense, given that you aren’t me.”
I tried again, “But you spoke for whites, not just the circles you travel in.”
She responded, “I don’t think we travel in the same circles.” And then, “by writing the column I AM joining the conversation.”
Finally she said, “You really shouldn’t read my columns.”
The reality is that she was not joining the conversation, she was having a monologue and that I think that is the problem with the old media format – it is a one-way, top-down conversation. To be fair, many columnists and reporters have become better at engaging with their readership, but that is not the case here.
The response from the reader: “I agree with her right to hate speech as long as she doesn’t directly instigate others to violence. Even so, I feel moved to protest hate speech when I encounter it. Therefore, I have canceled my Enterprise subscription. I had supported the paper for 36 years.”
A number of other readers joined in and one noted, “I cancelled my Enterprise subscription years ago because of articles like Debra wrote on Sunday.”
For me, especially since I have made it a point not to read her column, the key was her unwillingness to engage in a discussion.
Two weeks ago, I responded to columns from Debra DeAngelo and Tanya Perez in the local newspaper, that posit newspapers as the solution to fake news.
Wrote Debra DeAngelo: “I’m having a grand chuckle over all the hand-wringing about ‘fake news.’ You know where you find real news? Newspapers. Boom. Mic drop.”
I found myself largely agreeing with David Musser’s column in response – and I rarely see eye to eye with him.
He wrote, “I was not impressed with the Perez headline: ‘Subscribe to the dang newspaper, people!’ followed by DeAngelo’s laughable comment: ‘You know where to find real news? Newspapers. Boom. Mic drop.’”
“No Ms. DeAngelo, no mic drop here. Actually, I’d prefer to trade the mic for a megaphone,” he wrote. “It takes real chutzpah for mainstream media apologists to sarcastically tell us what news to buy or not buy, considering mainstream polling, punditry, projections, etc., in this election cycle turned out to be horribly inaccurate — just as fake as anything written in the National Enquirer. At least when the Enquirer makes stuff up, it manages to provide me with substantial entertainment in the process.”
As I said two weeks ago, I’m rubbed the wrong way that the paper is arguing that they are the antidote to “Fake News.”
Part of the problem is that, during the election, the mainstream news – both the papers and broadcast media – mixed punditry, fact checks and, yes, I think their opinions, into the news coverage in a way that the lines got blurred.
The mainstream press has a problem – they want to be the voice of truth and accuracy, but they got the election wrong from start to finish.
One answer would be to humanize themselves – engage the readers. But that appears out as well.
—David M. Greenwald reporting