By: Heidi Kulicke
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.