Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Complaint Department

Nobody likes to hear complaints, but I got two in two days. You have to understand that it's rare for me to receive two complaints over even a few months time.

Occasionally I'm going to do a news story that rubs someone the wrong way. That goes with the job. It's incentive for me to do better and remain sensitive about the news that we do.

The first was from a Lomira man who receives our KFIZ Today newsletter. He didn't like the blurb that was included in the news about Charter Communications changes for the former WB and UPN local affiliates. I thought since thousands in the area are cable subscribers that they might appreciate hearing what Green Bay and Milwaukee stations would be carrying the new CW network. He wasn't happy because he's a satellite dish subscriber and has some beefs with Charter. Just information, that's what news is all about. He left his name and where he was from, but not a phone number in the voice mail complaint.

The second was from the relative of a North Fond du Lac police officer who had resigned. She didn't like the story and felt it smeared a good person. It was in fact mainly information from a complaint the Village police chief had brought against the officer that prompted a settlement in which the officer settled for a six-day suspension without pay, but would never serve due to his resignation. She claims he took a better job and that might be the case, but when I offered to tell her and his side of the story she bulked and wouldn't go on record. She also wouldn't tell me who she was.

One thing she did say that irked me was that I get all of my news out of The Reporter anyway. Granted I cover some of the same meetings, news, court hearings and see their reporters there too. However if all I had to do for news was read stories out of the paper I'd be putting in much less time each week developing my own story ideas and covering events. She failed to note that the very story she called to complain about wasn't featured in the paper that day.

I do incorporate suggestions made from those who complain. You'll never hear details about sexual assaults get too graphic in a story I do because of one complaint I received earlier in my career. One librarian called me about the way I used to pronounce "library." I think about it every time I say the word. You won't hear me motor through reading the news because of another complaint I received about a reporter I worked with who used to speed through her stories.

I'll tell you a story about one of the first complaints I received while working for a radio station in Manistique, Michigan..my hometown. Every day I would get a call from a person who it would seem wasn't a listener. He would always ask for the current weather conditions and time. It never failed that he seemed to call right after I gave the weather and time on the radio. Finally one day I asked him why he always called for the weather and time. He explained to me that he liked to walk and had a special path mapped out along a road. He was blind!

If you are going to call and complain at least let me know who you are. I always start out at a disadvantage. When I get a call at KFIZ I always answer the same way. "This is Bob Nelson, how can I help you?"