Thursday, October 04, 2012

Don't shoot the messenger

A few weeks ago I was the victim of ugly. The strange thing is, I had no idea what was really going on.

It was National Suicide Prevention Week and I was writing about it. A casual friend called me and said someone she knew had died by suicide and - if it could help someone - his daughter was willing to share how it had affected her.

In journalism, we don't cover suicides -- unless it is done in a public place (hanging at the park) or by a local figurehead.

But because it was NSPW and because technically they called me, I decided to use the opportunity to kick off my story.

After speaking with the teen daughter and teen son, and their mother, I had a little info to add to the story. It wasn't much as the children didn't say a whole lot but the wife, or ex-wife in this case, said a few nice things. I mean, I've written quite a few "Life Stories" -- stories of people who have died -- and never would I ever write something derogatory about the person who died. Had anything bad been sad, I would not write it. Not under these circumstances.

Overall, I thought it went pretty smooth.

Was I ever wrong! Apparently the children and ex wife were not liked by the man's friends.

The story ran on the day of the man's funeral. My phone started ringing and people started yelling at me.
Over the next couple of days I received ugly texts, phone call messages at work and on my cell, and at my work email. I was also defriended by a few people. One person went as far as telling me she can only wish one of my own children would die so that I would know what it was like to be betrayed - or something to that affect. Ugly - ugly - ugly. I felt like I was being bullied and stabbed in so many ways.

As a journalist, it comes with the territory. I've had people upset over things written. That's fine. No big deal. Actually, most of the time - people love me and love what I've written. But this was definitely not just not liking what I wrote but hatred towards me - to the point of wishing me bad.

I can see being hurt because you care for a deceased friend so much. I can only hope to have friends who care that much. BUT - that does not give a person a right to bully or threaten another.

One friend of mine was deeply, deeply hurt and she cried and told me she loved me but hated what I wrote - it hurt me to know I had unwillingly hurt her.

But I did nothing wrong. If anything, I thought the story was good for the children involved - one last gift for them. 

But there was so much ugly, I won't even go into the details of it.

I did reach out to a colleague - a former editor I love, admire and respect - and she suggested I write about it. Not for the newspaper, but for myself. So I did just that. I wrote about it in my journal. She also suggested, if possible, take a day off.

And I did. I surrounded myself with love - my children - and took that next Wednesday as a day off and went to the coast.

Things looked better Thursday.

Honestly, before that story - I never knew the family. And like I said, I was approached - that is why I included the personal aspect in the story. And honestly, during this time - I prayed for his two kids. Because if I, as the writer, was being treated so bad - I can only imagine what they were being treated like.

I'm sure if one of his friends reads this - I will be hated all over again. So I will say it again - don't shoot the messenger - nor the writer, the person who just so happens to be able to see both sides of the story.

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