Star’s DiManno responds to “uncivil” comments, gets warnings from management

Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno says online and email comments received from readers are “often corrosively uncivilized and deliberately baiting.” And she admits rising to the bait because she  doesn’t “accept the old axiom that the buyer is always right.”

“In a word,” she writes, “Screw that.”

In a Jan. 13 column titled “When email critics can be corrosive and uncivil,” DiManno admits to replying to emailed reader comments and adds that some readers have taken her responses to editors, publishers and even the board of directors, asking for apologies or her firing.

She writes:

“With newspapers, dropping 75 cents in the box – or, these days, simply reading the paper online free – is deemed sufficient to assume the role of minority shareholder. Newspapers actually encourage this sense of community ownership: Join the conversation etc. Yet the conversation, when taking potshots from afar, is often corrosively uncivilized and deliberately baiting.”

And later:

“I can’t obey. I’m not that docile. I am, it’s said, incorrigible. My personnel file is stuffed with management warnings about code-of-conduct rules transgressed. I’ve been called on the carpet and figuratively boxed about the ears. But I just can’t submit passively to abuse from anybody.”

The outspoken columnist wrote about Tom Hicks Jr., an unpopular director with the Liverpool FC soccer team in England, who resigned after his unrestrained email response to a critic became public.

DiManno adds:

“As it happens, I once responded to a nasty emailer with a comment almost word-for-word matching what Hicks Jr. wrote. That prompted a summons to appear before a Star human resources apparatchik and, afterward, a formal letter of admonishment from the managing editor, couriered to my home. I read the letter, replaced it in the envelope, scrawled the exact same offending phrase across the front, and couriered it right back – then waited to be fired. That didn’t happen. But some day, I suspect, it will, and not for the first time. I promise not to cry or beg pardon.”