Being a journalist makes you a quick enemy of a lot of people who take things very personally. They’ll take something you say as evidence of a personal bias against them, and start taking a fine-toothed comb to everything you write, pointing out every mistake and interpreting everything you say in the most negative way possible.
Political journalism is the worst. People take the most minute things in politics very seriously. I got a good taste of that in university covering the Concordia Student Union. National politics is worse because there’s a much larger audience, because it’s professional (people get paid big bucks to be politicians), and because people think that it’s really important.
So you can imagine what happened to The Gazette’s Elizabeth Thompson (an otherwise straight-faced reporter whose copy I have mercilessly slashed to bits lovingly edited with care many times) when she made a few good-natured but insensitively snarky jokes at the expense of the prime minister’s director of communications, Sandra Buckler, who’s having surgery as part of cancer treatment.
Though there was no malice intended, making fun of someone who is being treated for cancer is a bit lacking in taste, the kind of insensitivity I’ve shown myself on many an occasion when I post before I think.
Reading the comments attached to the post, however, you’d think she started cheering for her to die:
- I’ve called the Managing Editor to bring it to his attention, and will be contacting CanWest advertisers to let them know I will be actively boycotting their products.
- Liz Thompson of the Montréal Gazette whose lack of common decency and narcissism has lead the Parliament Hill reporter to refuse to take the high road and apologize for her vile blog in which she defamed the Director of Communications of the Prime Minister
- That is about the worst thing I have ever read.
To her credit, Thompson apologized to Buckler, and has left (most of) the comments attached to the post, many of which are a bit less hot-headed about her crossing the line.
In the end, hopefully everyone has learned that behind all the politics and professionalism, everyone is human.
UPDATE: Thompson follows up with a heartfelt, honest mea culpa, explaining the lessons she’s learned.