Beware of calls from George

In this business I can get suspicious when I get an email from someone saying “that was a nice story, but…”

I know whatever is after the “but” is not going to be something I want to read.

It’s the backhanded complaint that I’ve been so keen to spot the past few years. They lure me in by trying to tell me how great I am, then whack me with a large mouth bass across the back of the head when I’m not looking.

I got one of those recently that started out like a compliment but turned to a complaint real quick. Now that I look at those two words – compliment and complaint – share almost the same letters.

These emails are almost like the anonymous phone call complaint I get sometimes. I basically say if you aren’t going to tell me your name I’m not going to sit here and listen to you complain. They are mostly not directed at me, but the subjects of one of my stories. So why don’t they call the person in the story instead of me?

In our business, some anonymous phone calls can create good story leads, but some are just annoying.

I had one person who wanted to complain about someone who used to work in Marshalltown, but now works in another community.

He started out the call by saying “for the sake of our conversation my name is George.”

It seems he wanted to complain about how this person – who is no longer in our state – is doing their job. I guess he wanted to squeeze information out of me from the past and I didn’t let out anything until the guy eventually told me his name.

People will go to great lengths to be anonymous with their complaints, with some even making up fake email accounts. Just a little hint, emails from fake-named email accounts aren’t very credible either.

Despite what you may infer from this column, I do get plenty of compliments and for those I am grateful. In this business you learn to have a thick skin with some of the readers when the compliments turn into complaints on a dime.

We always welcome real ideas for stories and I know that getting feedback – both positive and negative – is part of the job.

And now I know to always be wary of calls from people pretending to be named George.

Reporter Andrew Potter is a Tuesday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or