My first hate mail: how I moved on

Earlier this week, USA Today College published an article I wrote about the Ferguson decision on Monday. It was my 11th article with USA Today College, but the first that received negative comments. As far as "hate mail" goes, it was pretty tame. The first comment claimed my article is "incoherent emotional rambling," while the second one encouraged me to spread the Gospel of Jesus and, according my understanding of it, stop being to arrogant.

I didn't give much thought to the second one, because writing is my attempt to make a difference in the world and I have had many a conversation about it with God. Frankly, I value his thoughts on the matter far more than this man's.

It was the first comment that caused some restlessness as I went to sleep. Was my article really incoherent rambling? A further comment he made was to ask whether evidence had been read. It made me wonder--had I written the article in a flurry of emotions, without giving proper thought to all the evidence? As an aspiring journalist, I want nothing less than to be accused of bad investigation.

I was uncomfortable every time I thought about the comments and the article itself... especially after a conversation with my parents, in which I learned that they, also, disagreed with my positions. Had I really fallen victim to the influence of the mass and published my opinions without making sure they were factually grounded?

I did some more research, reading more articles--not editorials, but articles like this one, which compares and contrasts witness testimony with Darren Wilson's testimony. I read several other articles as well, and came to the conclusion that I would stand by my opinion and not let the negative feedback get me down.

This post is not supposed to be my opinion about Ferguson. If you want that, you can read my USA Today College article, linked above. This post is about dealing with negative feedback. What I could have done when I first read the comments, and what I was inclined to do, was fall over and never write again. Someone disagreed with me; someone thought a piece I wrote was not very good. What if a grad school got ahold of it? What if a future employer saw it and decided he or she didn't want to hire someone who had been accused of "emotional incoherent rambling"? I feared my future was at stake. I should just give up, I thought. Even my parents, my biggest fans, disagreed with me. I had really messed up.

Then I thought about it some more. People disagree with journalists all the time. People accuse them of bias, poor reporting, bad investigation and countless other things all the time. It's one of the dangers of the profession; people will disagree with what you say and try to undermine you, by telling you you're not being a good Christian, you're being emotional or you've fallen victim to the influence of the masses.

As a journalist, it's my job to stay above that. It's my job to be confident in my work and be able to hold my head up and defend what I've written, whether people like it or not. Sometimes I will hold unpopular opinions, and people will hate. That's okay.

The other thing I had to realize is that sometimes they will be right. Sometimes I will mess up. I'm human. We're an exciting, adorable, screwed-up species and we specialize in making mistakes. Others will understand that, and as long as my mistakes remain manageable, unintentional and redeemable, I hope I will be shown grace.

I don't think I messed up with my article this week, but there are those that do. And I can live with that. All it means is that I'm talking about something important, something people care about, and that's a good thing.

So how do you move on from "hate mail"? You embrace it, take the suggestions to heart, and use a filter to get rid of the too-negative. You laugh, talk to someone who supports you (or even someone who doesn't but who can give you good advice) and you pull a Taylor Swift, and shake shake shake it off.