Those seem to be the main two reactions inspired by Mail Call, a weekday compendium of snippets of whatever is on some readers’ minds.
Some readers regard Mail Call more with bemusement or morbid curiosity.
I’ve heard opinions that it is not good for the community. Elected officials have claimed it can hurt economic development when it is read by business owners who are considering relocating here.
On the other end of the spectrum, some readers have claimed that Mail Call is the only place where you can get the truth, that it gives voice to the voiceless, that Mail Call is the only reason some people read the newspaper.
It’s more likely that reality falls somewhere in the middle. Mail Call is neither that powerful nor that essential, but it is useful and often interesting.
It’s good to know in short bursts what some people are thinking, regardless of whether you agree with those thoughts.
Mail Call provides a snapshot of opinions.
Callers do not have to identify themselves. Sometimes, that anonymity encourages people to say things better left unsaid. Other times, it makes a caller feel more comfortable sharing a comment.
It’s natural that we all react differently to those comments, but the important thing is to not overreact.
This newspaper receives as much criticism in Mail Call as just about any one person or entity, except for maybe the president.
The Herald-Mail and those who work here can take the criticism and we often deserve it. We make mistakes.
But we also receive compliments in Mail Call. It seems like a fair mix.
Recently, one reader emailed in a letter about everything that is wrong with The Herald-Mail. At the top of the list was Mail Call.
Later, she emailed an unrelated comment for Mail Call.
So what do you make of that?
Well, for one, you don’t make more of it than it is.
And I expect that’s where a majority of those prospective local business leaders would come down on the issue. They didn’t become successful business owners by overreacting to an anonymous opinion.
Overall, Mail Call is just a part of this newspaper and it is not used by everyone in the community. There is a lot more going on in Hagerstown, Washington County and the Tri-State area than what is shown in Mail Call, but it is part of the picture.
And it is our job at The Herald-Mail to put together a newspaper that reflects the community as a whole.
If you’ve made it this far in this column and you’re feeling an urge to call Mail Call, the number is 301-791-6236. Callers leave a recorded message. The Herald-Mail prints as many comments as possible each weekday. Mail Call is not published Saturday or Sunday.
Some calls will be screened out. Those that are printable in a family newspaper are published, except when the call volume exceeds the space we have. We often have more calls than we have space to publish. So the ones that are published are a diverse sampling of all of the calls.
There are a few rules for callers:
- Please try to limit your calls to 30 seconds.
- It is best to limit calls to issues in the news.
- It’s OK to criticize decisions by government officials, but don’t get personal.
- We don’t allow people to criticize a specific business.
- Don’t call about buying or selling an item.
- Don’t call to advertise a business or ask where a certain item can be bought in this area.
- Don’t give medical advice.
- Don’t criticize a specific neighbor.
- Don’t call about hiring someone to do odd jobs for you.
- No profanity.
- Don’t engage in name-calling.