When I was a freshman student at Butler, I had an assignment in EN 102 – basically freshman English – tasking me to write a letter to a hero. “You’d be surprised at the response,” the professor said. So, I went on the internet (which in the fall of 2002 was Hotmail and about 39 websites) and tried to find a mailing address for Billy Joel.
I didn’t receive a response and I’m certain my letter was…dumb. I still went to go see Billy Joel and Elton John that year.
This happens from time to time, but I’m a firm believer in confirming receipt and replying. Conversations are easier than ever to have, and through the clutter I think we should all enjoy the times when someone gives a shit.
On May 24, I wrote this about the Cubs. (Too Long Didn’t Read: it’s about how too many people cite their scoring average, runs per game, and don’t pay attention to how often they score a suitable amount of run). Basically, I stated that the Cubs needed to be more consistent offensively, and while they’re cumulative totals were excellent, they were misleading.
I’m a subscriber of The Athletic and I recommend it to everyone. It’s excellent, despite the Silicon Valley bro stuff in the NY Times a while back. I noticed the Athletic Cubs beat writer always cited that the “Cubs are second in the NL in runs per game” so I shared with him that if you score 10 and 0, the average is 5 but you’re not consistent. It was a nice email. Here is what I sent him on June 14:
Like my previous outreach to Billy Joel, I didn’t receive a response. I did, however, see something really familiar to my work appear in The Athletic on June 25. So I sent another note:
To be clear, I didn’t believe I was plagiarized. I was excited by it, and meant that above tweet with good humor. He quickly answered (hey!) with this reply:
So at the least, we were writing about the same topic in the 4th week of May. I sent him a nice note and a link to something relevant on June 14, and on June 25 an article looking a lot like mine appeared on The Athletic. To be clear, I didn’t think I was copied (I got a kick out of it because I hadn’t seen my ideas in the sports pages in a while).
What I did think was that the right thing to do in his case – and for anyone – was to answer when someone (non-troll) emails you. When a reader (or relative, co-worker, friend, etc.) gives a shit to chime in, respond. It takes a second.
Today’s media is embattled in so many ways and The Athletic is a not-yet-profitable startup. Your readers matter – particularly when their message is relevant and constructive. “Hey thanks for the email, I actually wrote this the other day. Thanks for reading.”
On the flip side, a lot of media I’ve seen over the years work hard to be engaging and responsive.
Really, this is a good lesson for anyone. Whether it comes from a text, email, DM on social, fax or smoke signal, take a minute to acknowledge a positive message. On the flip side, if you like someone’s work – send them a quick note. We could all use a dose of good news and good thoughts nowadays.
He’s Got Jokes
I love the NBA offseason.