Some days being a reporter feels a lot like being a moving target.
The act of collecting moments from people's lives often comes with an extra-sized serving of shade from the public at large. I got a taste of this early on as a reporter at KLFY in Lafayette.
The best? A "Welcome to Louisiana!" call. The viewer explained that a crab-stuffed pork loin was waiting for me at the Cajun meat store downtown to make me feel at home.
The worst? Well… this is where the shade began.
That message went something like this:
"Mr. Campbell I am calling to tell you that when you button your coats up on TV, you look just like a little stuffed baked potato ready to pop! Unbutton that coat!"
Obviously the pork loin hit my waistline, and that phone call taught me that any minutia can be scrutinized by a stranger.
Last year in Atlanta I found myself targeted in a different way by a "citizen journalist" using his cell phone camera to take on the media.
I was following a tip that the Krog Street Tunnel, a kaleidoscope canvas for street art, was being "erased" at midnight.
The "paint-over" was in protest of a private party scheduled inside the public space.
With camera in hand I recorded "artist protestors" vigorously erasing the colorful creations painted by other artists.
Historically their art decorated the tunnel for all to see free of charge. Painting over it in grey was an effort to prevent the street art from being gazed upon by the $50 a ticket crowd that weekend.
The first interview was with a man holding his own camera, recording me record him.
He screamed "It's our artwork. It's not their's!" as his friend passionately exclaimed "They can't have it!"
It didn't take long for friend of mine to share a screen grab of an instagram post with my face on it. It was by the same guy, explaining how he "flipped the switch on this camera anchor guy."
Others chimed in with their comments, including one stating, "I used to cut his hair."
This culminated with the interviewee summing up his experience with me as follows: "He was a total dork. Except not really, except really he was."
"Total dork + not really + except really he was = me wondering if I should reply."
Generally my instinct is just to let situations like that fester out on their own.
However when chatting about this with my then-colleague Karyn Greer, she insisted "Oh no, you have to reply! Simply tell him when his story will air, and he'll tell everyone to watch it."
It felt like a valid journalistic way to handle the dork-jab, without engaging in any endless online trolling. So I did just that.
Later that day, just after the story aired, a new pic went up. This post was a screen shot from my report captioned: "Me drunk on the new(s) looking like a hobo serial killer high on meth."
All in all I think everyone wins in this scenario. He was able to rage against what he saw as the "News Machine" while at the same time humble-brag about his appearance on the broadcast.
And I learned a lesson in how to navigate the rocky waves of the internet ("If you can't say something nice, tell them when to watch!")
Now when I see those frequent cell phone cameras pointed at me while I work, I accept the fact that someone, somewhere is probably calling me a dork. But not really. But really.
If I ever see it in pixels or posts, I'll be sure to tell them when to watch!
CLICK HERE to see the Krog Tunnel story.
Jeremy Campbell is an ATLien, storyteller, traveler... & often all three at once.