Can you pass the critic’s test? |

Can you pass the critic’s test?

Don Rogers

Best stay out of public leadership, writing for or editing the local newspaper, or just about any other endeavor involving human interaction if you have a thin skin.

We all have our critics.

Someone – maybe even a lot of someones – always knows a better way, would do things differently, can’t believe we would choose the course we have chosen. They might even have a clue of what they are talking about, but don’t count on it.

No one understands.

There you go. Two axioms guaranteed to vex anyone sane enough to care what others think of them.

Thankfully, sanity isn’t really a hallmark of editor types. As with CEOs, it helps to be at least faintly reptilian. We attract our criticism the old fashioned way, to borrow from the old Smith-Barney commercial. We earn it.

All of us also judge others. I’m a pro, in that I get paid for playing the critic of society, leadership, and especially society’s public leadership.

There’s bound to be blowback in my business. I expect it. I even welcome it. Livens the discussion about difficult issues that our community should take an active interest in.

I’m surprised at some of our loudest, crankiest critics feeling stung when it turns back on them. Of course, criticism is unfair. It’s always unfair. The critics of the critics never get it, on and on. The critics who have been criticized don’t seem to consider that the folks they blast might feel, with some justification, exactly the same way about their not-so-kind words.

I’ll admit my sympathy runs low for gadflies who have been bit back. And I’m amazed at how many with such tender egos nonetheless charge at the establishment, or whomever, very publicly and very tartly.

Sure, we have our fair share of them. So does every other community I’ve had the privilege of watching, from California to upstate New York. I find these folks absolutely critical to the ultimate success of our smalltown societies. What they don’t kill, they strengthen. What they do kill probably wasn’t sturdy enough to succeed anyway.

So I welcome the characters, the mavericks, the know-it-alls, the shriekers, the whisperers. I just wonder at their discomfit when they inevitably catch heat. What, they thought they were immune?

Some run for and reach office – councils, commissions, town boards, school boards, even legislatures and Congress. Then they become the targets instead of the archers from the back pews and have trouble accepting it. Newt Gingrich was a fabulous example. He was a great rebel and frankly, a lousy leader of the establishment he took over. Woe to anyone with the temerity to tell him so, though.

I’ve met lots of smalltime Newts over the years, most not quite ready for prime time. Something about the political light attracts them, like moths. If hubris had wings …

I suppose what keeps me somewhat in balance, or at least from feeling scalded when I’m blasted, is the knowledge I can be wrong about any of my opinions. God forbid, this critic might be right, or maybe that one. It is uncomfortable.

Best advice for you thinking about running for council or school board this November? Look hard inside. Are you maybe a little too sure of yourself? Have all the answers, do you? How will you suffer the fools in the public who doubt you? For they will, you know. Bigtime.

Those of you who dish, can you take it, unfair and poisonous as those arrows may be? To be a public servant – motives questioned, scorned, and all – is truly a high calling.

Take care that you are up to it, critics and all.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or

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