In 1975, I was a sportswriter at the Woburn (MA) Daily Times. Among the glamorous duties at a suburban daily newspaper is covering such events as Pee Wee Hockey games. It could be worse. If you were a political reporter like my pal Eric Riess, you got to cover school board meetings. One day I wrote a one-sentence story that went something like this: “Jimmy Jones scored the winning goal as the Blue Devils beat the Jets, 5-4 in a Middlesex Pee Wee Hockey league game yesterday at Smith Arena.”
The next morning, after the story appeared in print, my phone rang. It was a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Johnson. She was very angry. “My son Fred scored three goals in that game!” she told me. “I know,” I said. “But Jimmy Jones scored the winning goal. And I wrote about your son last week.” This did not satisfy Mrs. Johnson, who went on for a full ten minutes on the injustice I had perpetrated and my own personal shortcomings as a sportswriter. I was pretty upset (being young and new at my job) and went in to vent to my moon-faced managing editor, James “Jim” Haggerty, Jr. He listened politely, pulled the pencil from behind his ear, and gave that nervous laugh that he had. “Heh-heh-heh,” he said. “If you wanted to be popular, you should have been a fireman.”
Marketing lesson: If you write things in public, whether newspaper article or blog post, somebody is going to disagree. Also, if you want to be popular, you might want to see what opportunities exist in your local fire department.