Complain, if you dare

An agitated reader who called the San Francisco Chronicle to complain about the phrase “pilotless drone” in a photo caption got more than he bargained for in response.

The newspaper put his voicemail tirade into its audio podcast feature Correct me if I’m wrong.

Then someone remixed the audio with a dance beat and posted it on YouTube.

Then it was sliced into a set of comical telephone “whooptones“.

And now, as CBS Public Eye comments, we’re blogging about it.

All very funny, and something I can sympathise with, having listened to a few abusive readers over the years.

So, was the Chronicle justified in starting this whole thing by posting the audio in its podcast? In my opinion, yes. It’s not unlike a letter to the editor, which gets published, generally without rebuttal, in a newspaper.

I have a couple of concerns, however:

  1. Anyone who leaves a voicemail message that may be published in audio or text form should be informed of that possiblity at the outset. Presumably the Chronicle did this in its voicemail greeting.
  2. Publishers need to be aware that some people, particularly if they are not subject to identity verification, may complain loud and long and colorfully in hopes of getting their 15 seconds of fame. Any decision to publish the comments should be based on how much they illuminate an issue, not on how angry (or stupid) the person sounded.

Hat tip: CBS Public  Eye