Back in the bad old days when media was massive and I towered above
the tiny non-income-tax-paying masses as editor-in-chief of such mighty periodicals as The Ragan Report and the Journal of Employee Communication Management—back
then, I didn't answer every email I received.
And the truth was, many letter writers didn't expect to hear back
when they wrote to me, any more than they expected a thoughtful reply to
every letter they wrote to President Clinton, or Ted Williams. Not writing people back—or choosing whom I wrote back, and when—was one way we all came to understand our relative power. (A friend of mine once accused a colleague of building himself up by strategically increasing the calliber of people he refused to call back.)
But these days, like most people whose arrogance has been overtaken by their terror of bad karma—I do reply to pretty much every email I get.
In fact, I reply immediately, in order to get the fucking thing out of the way as fast as possible.
For instance, a woman sent me a video to see if was something I'd like to run at the website of ContentWise, an ezine I edit (and to which you should subscribe). I watched the video. It wouldn't be remotely interesting to my readers. I wrote her back and let her down easy.
She thanked me for my response, then asked, "Do you know anyone that may be interested in my video?"
Now that email I didn't reply to.
A PR woman asked me what I thought of a book she'd sent me to review. I replied by thanking her for sending the book. And without hesitation, because now that I reply to anyone, I definitely don't have time to reply thoughtfully, I added that the book was "inanity bordering on insanity. I can't believe anybody took the time to gather this many worthless bromides and put them between two covers. You've got to get off this project immediately. [The author] is hopeless, but it's not too late to save yourself."
Then a reader of Executive Communication Report, another free ezine that I edit (and to which you should also subscribe), asked me to bawl out a PR guy at a small college. My reader had written the PR guy—we'll call him Jeff Postman—to inquire about a freelance writing assignment he had, that I'd listed in the ezine. But he didn't write her back. So she wrote me, wondering if I might write him, "to let him know that when people take the time and effort to respond, it's nice to at least acknowledge it, even if he's made a different choice."
Dear Mr. Postman,
It has come to my attention that a reader of my weekly Executive Communication Report saw your ad for a freelance speechwriter, responded to it, and didn’t hear back from you despite two follow-ups and a nice phone message! Just what kind of man are you, Mr. Postman?
David Murray, Editor
Executive Communication Report
Maybe I should go back to ignoring some of my mail—for all our sakes.