Off Air: Jo-Ann Roberts

Say that to my face: if you don't have something nice to say...

Off Air by Jo-Ann Roberts

Off Air by Jo-Ann Roberts

When I was growing up I was taught, “If you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”  And I’m sure my mother wasn’t the only one who believed in this maxim, but these days I’m starting to wonder.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not a Pollyanna, I’m a journalist, I understand critical thinking. However, it seems to be open season on vicious venting, and not in private, but in public settings where the vitriol is there for anyone to read.

As a radio host, especially one who works for a public broadcaster, I feel privileged to be invited into people’s lives.  I want listeners to be invested in what I do. So, I expect them to tell me when I get something wrong.  I’ll fix it. If there is something I do that bugs you and I can address it, tell me and I’ll do my best to improve.  So, my complaint is not about constructive criticism.

What bothers me is some of the comments I read on websites and in e-mails sent to general addresses, the writers, often with names like “pettyperson” or “nothingbettertodo”, just rant and call people names.  I often wonder would you put the same information in a letter to the subject of your outrage and would you sign your name? Better yet, would you say the same thing if the person were standing right in front of you?

I once replied to a listener who was upset about something I’d said. I replied, apologized and tried to explain my remarks. She replied, embarrassed and said she didn’t think I’d ever read her e-mail, but that it would be dealt with by a producer. She went on to say that if she thought I’d read it she would never have sent it, or would have been more polite. I appreciated her honesty.  I’m sure she’ll think twice before she fires off a cutting comment in the future.  Maybe she’ll even ask herself “If I’m not going to say something nice, maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all.”

Not a bad question for all of us to ponder before we post.

Jo-Ann Roberts is an award-winning, veteran journalist who is host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, 3-6 pm weekday afternoons, 90.5 fm. Married to Ken Kelly, they have four children.