I worked for a chain of small-town community newspapers for over ten years. During that time, I was accused of lots of things, including actual criminal activity, none of which I was guilty of. Of course, that didn’t keep certain people from speculating, in spite of the dearth of evidence. I guess it makes for an entertaining hobby.
For example, I was said to be taking bribes from the mayor. Really? Did they bother to take a good look at the very used car I drove? The lack of designer labels in the closet? My humble abode of a manufactured home? If the big bucks had been rolling in, surely there would have been some outward signs my lifestyle had improved . . . but nope, still just scraping by. Those reporters in movies that have great apartments and drive sexy sports cars? I don’t think they really exist.
I was also informed that if I were a “real” reporter, I’d go to the Wal-Mart home office a few states over and see just what kind of deal with the devil our mayor had made . . . somehow, certain people were under the delusion we had the expense account of the New York Times, when the reality was we barely got enough for gas money to the south end of the county. Somebody had been watching too much television, methinks.
I had a nasty little troll stalking me at our website, alternately berating me for my lack of writing talent and journalistic integrity, and wanting me to bear his children. Geez Louise, if I was that much of a no-talent amoral hack, why would he want me to birth his babies? I liked it better when he just hated me, you know? It didn’t make my skin crawl quite so much.
It didn’t help when our managing editor, who battled the extreme pain of Crohn’s Disease and found a certain herbal remedy helpful, was, along with her boyfriend, arrested for possession and intention to distribute marijuana. The next thing you knew, word on the street was our entire staff was running a major drug operation inside our newspaper offices and selling the stuff at our back door. People were afraid to let their children come inside our door for fear they’d be tainted in our presence.
We had to laugh. Oh, and by the way–the story of the arrest DID run in our paper, contrary to what some smugly expected, and on the front page. Needless to say, that editor was out the door, with the sportswriter and I basically running the paper until we could get a replacement.
Having a certain degree of celebrity, even a very, very small amount as I did, can bring you unwanted attention and “fans” you would be happy to not have.
There was the prisoner whose cellmate subscribed to our paper (a hometown boy, it seems). He decided to write me a nice long letter which I had to stop reading because it was making me blush. There were things he wanted to do with/to me, you see. My husband wasn’t too thrilled with it either. I gave thanks my prisoner fan wasn’t, apparently, a violent offender (he’d been sent to prison on a drunk driving conviction).
Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, readers were kind and complimentary (and not incarcerated). They appreciated the effort I put into covering a variety of events all over the county, the late nights I put in and the research I did on stories. They loved my weekly columns, in which I often wrote about universal themes of family, friendship, loss and love, and what it is like growing up in the south.
But there were those who, for whatever reason, were unhappy with me. My fellow reporters had to endure the same thing. I suppose it goes with the territory. You definitely have to develop a thicker skin and a sense of humor about it all.
When your profile rises, as RA’s profile has over the last couple of years, it seems
the trolls sharpen their axes and the less-than-desirable fans start ramping up their efforts. The crazies come out; the gossip and innuendo and speculation kick into overdrive.
We shouldn’t forget that actors, just like underpaid newspaper reporters, are still human beings. I say let ’em do their jobs, live their lives and give them as little grief as possible. You know, the old “treat others the way you would want to be treated” axiom.
Or am I asking too much?