Alabama Editor Gets Earful Over Snake Photos

By: Heidi Kulicke

Alabama Editor Gets Earful Over Snake Photos

Newspapers of all circulation sizes receive complaints on a regular basis. But who could predict one Alabama woman would take the time to write a complaint every single time her local paper, the TimesDaily, ran a story about snakes?

“Well, you’ve done it again,” the woman wrote in an email to executive editor Scott Morris. “A snake on the front page. I dropped my paper when I saw it! Gave me shivers! I am traumatized!” The email continued on, asking Morris to give special consideration to his snake-hating readers. She said she cautiously read the contents, but only after she put the newspaper through the shredder did she feel better. Her request? “Can’t you do some nice puppy stories on the front page instead of glorifying the lowest of creatures?”

Morris and his staff had a chuckle, but after all, they live in the South — snakes make the news more often than puppies. They couldn’t forget about snakes if they tried. In another email, the same woman reminded the editors of her snake phobia.

“Well, there it was again. At least it was page two instead of page one! It was big enough. Yikes, now I can’t (and won’t ever) go near Cypress Creek. That snake was HUGE!” The email continued, with her rant in all caps to get the point across. She even asked the newspaper for help. “If I faint from one of your photos, will you send a photog to cover the 911 call?”

In all, Morris received five or six complaints from the same woman, so naturally the most recent time a reporter pitched a snake story he cautiously approved it under one condition: The reporter must call the woman and warn her not to look at the Outdoors page the following Saturday. “I did receive a call from her later that day, thanking me for having the reporter call,” Morris said.

After such an interesting round of emails, Morris took to his column and wrote an article about the snake-fearing woman. “Just let us know if you want to be added to the newspaper’s snake warning list,” he joked. Some readers took him seriously and really did call in to be put on the list.

“Although at least one reader would differ, snakes are our friends,” Morris wrote in his column. “They control rodents and are an important part of the natural food chain. But they are probably not the best way to sell newspapers,” he added. Some of his readers would surely agree.

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4 thoughts on “Alabama Editor Gets Earful Over Snake Photos

  • November 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm
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    Snakes are fascinating creatures. I don’t feel comfortable cuddling with them. However, I find news articles about them and all wild life to be an interesting read.

    Reply
  • November 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm
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    Very interesting, I field the same sort of reaction when I call editors to pitch my content.

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  • November 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm
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    Great story. Inspirational reading for those of us who deal with readers (and other public). 😉

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm
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    One of my first assignments working as a staff photographer at the Knoxville News Sentinel was to photograph the petting zoo when it visited a local school. On location I kept waiting for the zoo keeper to bring out an animal that would make my picture. I knew I had my picture when a long snake was carried from the van and handed to the children. I could hardly contain myself with excitement as I composed the expressions of the kids holding the snake. The veteran reporter raced to my side and spoke anxiously into my ear. No snake pictures! I shrugged her off saying, Now is not the time to bother me. I walked through the door back at News-Sentinel HQ. The picture editor Jack was glad to see me back early. What’cha got for me? You wouldn’t believe it Jack. I got this great photo of the kids with a snake. Jack whisked his eyeglasses from his face and jumped out of his seat and nearly shouted, “SNAKES! You got snakes? Don’t you know we don’t shoot snakes here? Oh come on. You can’t be serious. He pulled out the policy handbook and pointed it out. Right there it said, “Photos of snakes are not allowed.” I kid you not.

    Reply

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