HARSH ON PURPOSE

Somebody is praying for God to change me. Wish I knew who he is.

It started two weeks ago, when I got this email. I’ve changed the names to protect the ignorant…

Hello Koretzky,

I’m Julia, a multimedia journalism studenr, and interested in joining SPJ. Katie from The Palmbeach Post mentioned you. Is there a chapter on the Boca campus ?

– Julia N. 

Since I’m on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists and a volunteer with the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, such emails aren’t rare. Sadly, neither is this: poor writing and spelling.

Julia is typical. She writes only sporadically for the student newspaper. She floats through her classes. Yet expects to graduate into a profession that’s shrinking.

Here’s my reply, with some identifying info removed…

Julia:

I vaguely remember you from FAU. Hope you’re well.

The real question is: What do you want to be when you grow up? Because if SPJ can’t help you do that, you shouldn’t waste your time.

I can tell you this: You probably won’t get a media job if you can’t spell. “Studenr”? “Palmbeach”?

– Koretzky

Julia replied later that day. Note the first sentence…

Hi Koretzky,

Please exuse my typos. I want to inquire info about the organization, such as the goal of SPJ for the FAU campus. Honestly, I am still exploring career avenues in journalism. My goal is to improve my skills in the field. I see that the organization is driven in exercising the first amendment, while providing an ethical voice,  so where do students come in ? .

– Julia

Besides misspelling her apology for her misspellings, Julia can’t punctuate (“? .”) or capitalize (“first amendment”) or write (“inquire info”) or even Google “SPJ” and find to where “students come in.”

Thus, my reply was intentionally harsh…

Julia:

“Please exuse my typos”?

If you can’t take the time to re-read the first four words, I’m not taking time away from my job to answer you.

If you’re so inclined, apologize to me in person Friday at the newspaper. I’m not God’s gift to journalism, but I do hire people, and I know others who do, too. Based on that small sample size, I feel confident telling you: Find another career to pursue.

– Koretzky

I didn’t hear back. From Julia. That evening, I got this…

Dear Mr. Koretzky,

I recently read an email you wrote to a student which was very disturbing.

Someone in your position should be encouraging students. If a student makes an error, you do not belittle them.

Someone in your position should possess a good personality, excellent listening skills, friendliness and congeniality.

Shame on you and I pray God changes you.

Regards,

Allen

Intrigued and confused and impressed, I replied…

Allen:

Thanks for your honest email. May I ask: Who are you?

That question isn’t intended to insult you, or to detract from the substance of your email. I just want to know who I’m talking to.

To defend myself…

I never belittle students for one error. Only multiple errors.
My time is valuable. If students don’t consider that, I owe them nothing.
Julia committed no mortal sin. If she wishes to speak with me in person — where spelling isn’t an issue — I’m glad to meet her with a smile.

Finally, I think you over-estimate “someone in my position.” I’m a volunteer journalism adviser and volunteer SPJ director. I’m not wielding my position to hurt Julia, because I don’t have the juice to do so.

Regardless, I admire you for defending her. I’d admire Julia if she defended herself.

As for God, He has yet to change me after 52 years. I don’t see Him getting around to it now.

— Koretzky

It’s now a week later, and I haven’t heard back from Allen. Or Julia. Too bad. For them.

Why I’m such a horrible person…

Whenever something like this happens – and it’s a couple times a year – I’m often called “a horrible person.”

I see it differently. I’m performing a free public service.

You know who’s horrible? The college professors and newspaper advisers who ignore these problems or ever-so-gently admonish the perpetrators.

How else could Julia make it halfway through college believing she’s eligible for a media job? Simple: Educators aren’t doing their job.

Maybe some of Julia’s professors have privately warned her. Maybe they’ve written terse comments on her class assignments. But obviously, nothing has stuck.

If Julia applies for internships or jobs in the same way she reached out to me, she’s doomed. She’ll be lucky to land assistant manager at an Applebee’s.

In his email to me, Allen insisted I should be “encouraging students.” That’s true, and I do. But when that doesn’t work, I have a moral obligation to discourage them.

A doctor who prescribes aspirin for cancer is guilty of malpractice. So are professors who coddle students who will rack up an average of $29,000 in student loan debt.

I may indeed be a horrible person. But the world is even more horrible than I am.