Great, or The Greatest, “Fan” Mail?

I have been working in journalism for my entire adult life and while most of the time the engagement with our listeners, readers and viewers is totally awesome, every once in awhile I get hostile feedback with picayune complaints that invariably include a personal dig. This absurdly rude type of “reader mail” has uniformly come from men. And it always includes some patronizing, preachy component.

There was that voicemail about jail versus prison, in 2015:

Last week, I got another classic one that I had to share with folks, because it was a) so absurd that it circled around to being funny b) the sender entered his name as “First Name Last Name” c) his email was an excite.com address and d) it so amused Friend Reeve that he spent his precious time helping compose a long-ass response (which I edited considerably before sending).

Here’s the listener note, which was, I kid you not, triggered by the fact I say “You bet” instead of “You’re welcome” sometimes.

And here’s the director’s cut response, of which only about five percent wound up in the actual response.

Dear [EMAIL ADDRESS REDACTED],

I’m sorry to hear that you have emailed management repeatedly and have yet to receive a response. As a reporter, I know how frustrating it can be to reach out and not know if your message was received. Somewhere in Kim Jong Un’s inbox, there is probably a whole folder of my unanswered interview requests. So, I hope you didn’t lose any sleep wondering, “Did she get my message?”  You bet I did!

You’ll have to bear with me, Gnarlee. Usually I am pretty casual. But since I know you’re a stickler for these sorts of things, I looked up the top ten email manners tips on EmilyPost.com, and I intend to follow them very closely as I write this response.

The first tip is to always respond, and to try and do so within 24 hours. Check! The second is to use the subject line to alert the receiver to the substance of the email, relieving them of any suspense. As you can see, I have done that. I hope you were not kept in suspense too long. I know you are very sensitive!

The third tip, which I think is a very good one, is to “consider using an address book function that doesn’t list all recipients in the ‘to’ header.” Accordingly, I have bcced numerous people on this email. The fourth — and I bet you can appreciate how relevant this was, Gnarlee! — is to not respond when you are “hot under the collar.” I followed the internet’s advice, and I let this sit for awhile before deciding that I would, in fact, send it.

Tips five, seven, nine and ten don’t really have any bearing on our correspondence. Tip eight is to keep it professional, by which they mean don’t talk about personal stuff. I would imagine following the standard letter-writing format I learned at Babler Elementary School — like making sure you have a salutation and a closing, using proper punctuation,  and things like that — could also fall under the idea of “keeping it professional.” So, even though I notice this was not a priority for you, I have made sure to do that, because as I said, I really want this email to demonstrate basic manners.

Finally, Gnarlee, that brings us to tip six. And I fear that this is where this whole project might fall apart, because tip six is “know your audience.” And even though your email clearly identifies you as “Full Name,” I feel like I just don’t know you, Gnarlee. And I feel like you don’t know me. And that makes this difficult. For all I know, your upbringing was completely different from mine. It’s also likely that our current lives don’t look all that similar (unless, of course, you are also a one-woman foreign bureau for NPR — in which case, way to go!). So unfortunately, though as you can see I came pretty close, I fear I may not be able to adhere to all of the top ten etiquette guidelines. Not because of any deficiency in my education, but just because they turned out to be a bit too rigid for our current context. No doubt, this has disappointed you, Gnarlee. I am sorry for that. The last thing I would want to do would be to write an email just to needlessly upset you.

My pleasure,

Elise

The New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner put it well, when she explained why she shares this kind of stuff:

“The biggest thing: I think it’s important for people who don’t get (or send?!) notes like these to see what the costs are for publicly being a certain type of person. Journalists need to see this, because while lots of us get stuff like this, PLENTY MORE don’t. And for many who do, the hostility is not gendered/racist/intimately personal in this way. It’s also important for journalist/public actors who DO get these notes to know they’re not alone. If you’re getting garbage hurled at you, know you aren’t the only one.”

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The Tiger Takeaway

The Tiger Woods saga-scandal continues this week, and by week’s end it’s safe to say none of us will be surprised to see another mistress – or ten – emerge. I have a day job that keeps me busy, but exploring the kaleidoscope of topics that come with the Tiger Woods story has become pretty much my favorite pastime of late. (Because face it, folks. Running sucks.)

Enter my old Mizzou pal Drew, who I affectionately call Drewbie, because I like to add an “ee” sound at the end of “ee” appropriate names. (This is also Matty’s plight.) Usually I complain to him about my fantasy team. Today we talked Tiger. A lot. Here are Drew’s various takeaways from Tiger’s tale of woe, conveniently in a somewhat chronological form.

1.) Tiger in accident? Yikes.

When the crash first happened it was serious news. The reaction was, oh my gosh, Tiger has been in a major accident. Then it was a minor accident. Then we learn his wife had to punch out windows to free him. This sounds curious on its face. How does that skinny woman pull a large guy out of a large car?

Then you find out he hit a tree and fire hydrant. The second reaction here is, this is not a good story for GM. “GM is always telling me about its ON STAR system, but a it appears a disembodied voice did not talk, assume control of car and call for safety,” Drew says.

2.) Getting to Know Tiger

This guy so closely guarded his private life that he refused to reveal what beverage he chose to drink out of the Ryder Cup upon winning it. But suddenly, because of this rapidly unfolding scandal, we get to know Tiger! After the accident, we learn about call from neighbor.

“Oh snap! Tiger has a black neighbor! I didn’t think this guy would have black person living within twenty miles of him, and he has a black guy living right next to him,” Drew says.

But think about it a little harder. Tiger lives on some sort of estate, right? Whatever happened must have happened in a loud, spectacular way in order for the neighbor to know about it and call 911.

3.) The Discovery of Infidelity and/or Domestic Violence

OK, why did wife Elin need to bash in a window, really? The idea of domestic violence enters the picture. WHAT is it that she is pissed off about? Then we learn the National Enquirer has an infidelity story. (This is around the time I become a regular reader of TMZ.com, which really became the go-to blog for the latest Tiger information.) Now, I know there are some areas in which the National Enquirer cannot be trusted, but for the record I believed them on that John Edwards love child story from the beginning. Here we were again with a powerful guy with mistress story, it was safe for both Drew and myself to follow their reporting. Especially if we were reloading TMZ most of the time, anyhow.

“Then we find out another crucial fact,” Drewbie points out. “That Tiger likes women. Tiger is such a neutral, emotionless, passionless robot most of the time that I had no idea that he had cravings of the flesh! That he was into carnage! You see other athletes and their performance and you get the idea that this or that guy owns his masculinity, has a swagger to him. Tiger had none of that going on.”

4.) Lesson Learned: Scandinavian women are not to be messed with.

“The more this story comes together, the more you realize this is not the heroic act of a wife,” Drew continues.

In fact, I think this is about the time in our conversation when Drew referenced something like 5,000 years of Viking fury that beat Tiger within an inch of his life. She deserves our respect for holding her husband accountable with a big stick.

5.) Women out of the woodwork

This is the part of the story where I can’t really keep up because I’ve been editing video or calling sources or otherwise doing something productive (not that this is not a fascinating and legitimate story in its own right). OK so let’s review. The first mistress woman denies any affairs, but immediately hires LA power attorney Gloria Allred. It seems mistress #1 won’t be saying anything to us.

Hotness

Enter the second one, Jaimee Grubbs. “She’s my favorite of the ten or eleven women,” Drew says. “If you wanted to brand the kind of woman that Tiger likes, you could say it in one word: Grubbs. That is exactly what he is after. This is the one who’s previous claim to fame was being on the VH1 show, “Tool Academy.  I love that. She’s clearly intent on building on the Jamie Grubbs brand. She immediately takes her story public. Not only have a slept with Tiger Woods, I have the electronic paper trail to prove it. And my god, if this voicemail message isn’t the greatest thing ever.” (Listening to it is better.)

Hey, it’s Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. Just have it as a number on the voicemail, just have it as your telephone number. You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.

This is Tiger truly speaking from the heart. Not some sort of practiced statement. We’re learning not only of his neighbor, but of his game. Game-game, not golf game.  “And the directions that she’s giving this woman. How does that help him out at all? This is clearly the ramblings of a desperate man.” This is the part where Drew felt sympathetic for Tiger, in the same way we all kinda felt sympathetic for Mark Sanford after all those nonsense love letters came out.  “No man should have to read his love letters in the newspaper,” Drew says.

I’m not sure this was the part where I felt bad for Tiger. I don’t really feel that bad for him, as I feel all the intrigue right now is partly his own doing by a.)protecting his privacy so fiercely that now EVERYTHING we learn about him is somehow a shocking revelation and b.) He’s the one who hooked up with all those women and betrayed his family. We can debate the need for marriage as an institution and the lack of merits for marriage in modern times, etc etc, but if dude wanted more freedom, he didn’t HAVE TO get married and have babies. Nevermind c.) The guy’s a public figure.

6.) Feeding Frenzy

Grubbs is the first to go public and go for the cash grab. BTW, it’s amazing she kept every voicemail and other communication because it shows she was prepared for this moment since she met Tiger. Clearly, this pisses off mistress #1. Press conference at 2:30pm.

While we’re waiting for all that, something like three or four women come out, “each one getting progressively worse on the hotness scale” (his words, not mine).  All of them fit the standard Grubbs archetype: the Vegas cocktail waitress, barmaid, nightclub hostess. Tiger has certainly pegged a certain type of women.

“When he feels down, [NFL quarterback] Vince Young watches 2006 national college football championship to remind himself who he is. Maybe Tiger should have done that. Maybe he should have put in the tape of the 1997 Masters or the 2008 PGA Championship. You have a billion dollar [part of the male anatomy] and you are effing these dollar store [something that rhymes with no’s]. He went very low down on the food chain,” Drew says.

Which bring us to…the woman from Perkins the pie restaurant.

“To be TIGER WOODS and to take your wife to a place where the golf course greenskeeper employees dont take their wives to eat, seems a bit odd to me To take youre swedish supermodel wife to Perkins for breakfast regularly?”

7.) Assorted takeaways

Tiger crashes into a fire hydrant in the middle of the night and now we get to learn all kinds of stuff about the guy within a period of two weeks. These are things we never assumed. Now we know he as a black neighbor. He likes cheap women, easy women. He likes to meet them in Vegas or in Perkin’s. And I also know that Tiger has an allergy to condoms. There’s no excuse for why this guy did not know better. And if your “game” is repeatedly cheating on your wife and subsequently maintaining regular relationships with the mistresses, just to cover his trail he should have covered up.  Just to be safe!

“That had me distressing. That had me jumping to conclusions about why mom went to the hospital,” said Drew.

Meanwhile, what do we make of the kind of women Tiger has been cavorting around with? YOU ARE TIGER WOODS. Shouldn’t we expect Woods to be hanging out with Rihanna?

8.) The Rise of Tabloids

So to review, this is a news story, a gossip story, a sports story, and it’s a business story because the guy’s a global brand. He’s the governor of a billion dollar enterprise. It’s everything. That latex allergy thing was when the wheels of this story really came off for me, but who knows what we can believe? We’re all trusting news organizations that PAY for their sources and stories. This is troubling for us as journalists who do not pay for news in a host of ways, which we can probably save for a separate post.

But quickly here – as journalists who don’t pay, we play other cards to get information, like cunning. Or the put-truth-before-your-own-self-interests card. The News of the World and Enquirer and even US Weekly, from what I understand, they play the we’ll-give-you-$150,000 card. This is why the Associated Press only acknowledges the first two mistresses and is holding off on the last seven, cause they can’t independently confirm them. If you can’t source it you have to say, “the Daily News has added these people, etc.” How do you stay in a story without opeining your wallet? All these outlets are paying.

9.) Looking Ahead: Are we in David Duchovny territory?

“Jaimee Grubbs is… I’m sorry. I could get with Jaimee Grubbs,” Drew says. “The fact that Tiger did this… Tiger and I should not be competing for the same pool of women.”

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