Why I, the columnist, need you, the audience, to comment on my stuff
A friend of mine recently asked me a question I didn’t have an answer to. He was reading through one of my former pieces and asked how I, as a controversy-laced humor columnist, deal with negative responses to my columns.
This was a difficult dilemma to explain; not so much because I don’t know how to respond, and certainly not because I’m never in a mood to argue — just ask my fiancee about our long-standing feud over whether or not “sparkles” is a color — but because in all honesty, I pretty much never get responses from anyone.
It’s not like I don’t open up the gates for it either. Each article on usustatesman.com has two comment options, and if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, both my email and my friggin’ Twitter handle are nestled peacefully under the bottom of this thing, and I make enough hard opinions about everyday household items to illicit some sort of emotional response from any of you academic passers-by.
You’d think at some point in time I’d hit the mark on the nose just enough to get at least a small slew of, “I never realized cabbage could go with that many side dishes. Good read,” or at the very least, “Del Taco is quite underrated. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” But instead, silence.
Since the start of the school year, I’ve received just two emails in response to my columns. One was from Sean Altman, formerly dreadlocked member of Rockapella who gave me kudos for giving the once-hallowed all-voice crew a nod, much to my ’90s pop-culturist’s squealing. The second was from an unnamed bystander who simply said, “Hey Steev. Ur not funny. Dont quit ur dayjob. Hah.”
Of course with the latter comment, I don’t have a clue how to process their point or how they managed to misspell “haha,” but it somehow opened me up to something. If I’m right about this, it may finally get me the readership feedback I’ve been so craving, and if not, well, go ahead and comment angrily about it, and we’ll both win.
Feedback only comes to those who make it known that they want it.
That’s the crux of it. We as writers need to make it known to you, the audience, that a well-thought-out comment is one of the largest bits of compensation we get for doing what we do, just short of a weekly stipend and free pretzels at basketball games.
Still not eager to go comment crazy? Perhaps a list of reasons why it helps the journalist to receive feedback will ease you in. I’ll give you just three.
First, it’s no fair that you get to do all the reading. We spend so much time at these power-fearing keyboards, finger-spilling phrases into loosely salvageable syntax that we never get the time to get to simply look at and take in. It’s like being a cook but never getting to eat, or being Gilbert Gottfried but never getting to be unspeakably annoyed. Your comments mean we are encouraged, even required, to read words and not type them, even if just for a moment. It doesn’t matter how malicious it comes off. It’s like a day off for our wrists, and that’s as close to any worker’s comp we may ever get.
Second, hearing your feedback and suggestions helps us improve as journalists and cultivate an environment where we can be a supportive voice and caring ambassador for student while … yada yada yada, you get this one. It’s important, but not nearly as my last point.
Finally, and most importantly, we actually get to use our Twitter accounts. Do you have any idea what it feels like to claim yourself as a public media figure who has a representation that speaks to a throng of needful listeners, while in reality only 42 people ever see whenever you find a funny-looking can opener at Bed Bath and Beyond? The shame just stays with you. Be a friend and give us at the very least a half-notch up on our discursively objective self esteem.
That general view should sort things out. As for me? In my four years as a columnist for The Statesman, I’ve had one dream: to have a platform where I can answer your questions regardless of how relevant they are or how many times they reference “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I’d call it “Steve’s Mailbag.” It’d be like “Story Time with Barney,” but with less imagination and a lot more peanut butter and jelly.
So look, I don’t ask for much, but I’m pleading for this. I’m giving you two weeks. Comment at the bottom of this column, shoot me an email, tweet me 140 characters of your utmost desires or, heck, even contact me via my pager that I still have and two Wednesdays from now, it just may make the archival cut. Ask anything you want, seriously, as long as it isn’t about sparkles being a color — which it isn’t, because it simply isn’t and I’m not discussing this further.
Please. Let my collegiate writing career die in peace and make Steve’s Mailbag a reality. If you won’t do it for me, at least do it for my Twitter account.
– Steve Schwartzman is a senior finishing a degree in communication studies. With eight years of column writing and improvisational comedy under his belt, he lives to make you laugh. Send thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit him up on Twitter @SESchwartzman.
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