Editor's column

"Rarely am I sympathetic with Congress, but we share the same problem with e-mail. Congress people are inundated by the stuff, and they have millions of messages to return if they can ever get around to it.News reports say Congress people are concerned about the problem and want to respond to every constituent's e-mail. But it will take time and, of course, more taxpayer money will be needed to deal with the problem. Can anyone remember the last time Congress had a problem that couldn't be solved by more taxpayer money? if so, send me an e-mail.The problem with e-mail is that it's far easier to send than to respond to. Just sit down at the computer, type a few lines of deep thoughts, click a mouse, and it's gone. Elapsed time: 1 minute or less. Cost in time and material: Virtually zero.The poor e-mail recipient receives the instant epistle and has to deal with it, often by doing some kind of research. For example, a woman from California, a non-subscriber I might add, e-mailed The Record a while back wanting me to look to see if a relative's obituary had appeared in the paper some years ago. For several weeks I thought about getting around to this, but before I could I received another e-mail from the same woman, declaring me rude and uncaring for not responding, and adding that she was going to quit reading The Record on the Internet. It's the first time a Record reader has canceled their Internet reading. It didn't hurt much, because it's free anyway. I strongly urge people who plan to get mad at The Record to subscribe and purchase advertising because it's much more satisfying when you decide to cancel it.In my opinion, this stranger from California should not have used e-mail to make her request. There were two better, more polite, options. One would be to telephone, introduce herself, politely describe what she wanted, apologize for the inconvenience, and express appreciation for the work that complying with her request would entail. Trust me, it's not easy paging through old newspapers looking for a single obituary.Or, better yet, the woman could have hand written her request to give it some personality and sincerity, placed it in an envelope (perfume optional) and sent it through the U.S. mail. This would have required spending money on stationary and a stamp, not to mention walking to the mailbox or driving to the post office. A hand written message requires real effort and shows a sincerity of purpose not even a telephone call can duplicate. Had I received an old fashioned letter, I probably would have dug into The Record archives immediately.E-mail has its place, but asking the recipient to take immediate action on some issue isn't one of them. My advice to Congress people is this: don't waste taxpayers' money responding to every e-mail you receive. If people really care about an issue they'll take the time to call or send you a nice letter. "

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