Across The Universe: No email reply? There may be a good reason why
In the newspaper business, we rely a great deal on the internet and email as an important form of communication.
I can oversee production of the Wednesday edition of the Sierra Sun, for example, by working remotely from a local coffee shop. I can message and email our reporters and editors, print designers and website staff regarding various assignments and deadlines, and over the course of a few hours, an entire newspaper can be produced with a heavy dose of mouse clicks and key strokes.
We all know email communication is not ideal in every circumstance, of course, but it’s pretty amazing how much can be accomplished while at the same time not once picking up the phone or meeting someone in person.
Email is also one of the best ways for readers and residents to reach me or other staff at the newspaper, and in many cases it is preferred. I receive anywhere from 100 to 300 emails a day (this is not an exaggeration), and while a good deal of them are junk, many others are extremely important notes and requests from Tahoe-Truckee residents.
Some of you reading this likely have emailed me directly over the past months and years to get a community brief into the paper, an obituary published, or some other form of important correspondence taken care of.
Email is not only a vital part of the news industry, it’s equally or more important to many other businesses in the world — and for millions of people, well, it’s a way of life.
For example, according to a 2015 study by the Radicati Group, more than 4.35 billion email accounts exist in the world, a figure predicted to reach 5.59 billion by 2019. What’s more, according to the firm MarketingSherpa, a 2015 study revealed that 72 percent of consumers say email is their favored form of communication with companies with whom they do business.
These statistics only scratch the surface of many others that conclude what we already know — people like to use email to communicate. A lot.
So … what happens when you find yourself in a position that you need an ASAP response by email, whether it be from a company CEO, a newspaper editor, a government official — or anyone, really — and it takes too long for a response?
Recently, I found myself on the other end of that spectrum. A week and a half ago, I awoke Saturday morning ready to get some work done, when I learned that the sister of one of my best friend’s had died suddenly overnight.
It was absolutely devastating news for him, as you can imagine, and any plans I had that weekend to get work done or perform other “important” tasks took a backseat to gathering up our friends and spending time together for the weekend and beyond.
As Monday and Tuesday of last week bore on, I began to get caught up with various forms of work, including emails that I had neglected for a few days. Generally, I like to respond to emails that I can’t get to immediately within 1-2 days’ time, although by nature of deadlines and the busy newspaper life, it can take up to a week.
This meant that last week, I was running longer than a week on some responses, and a few people were keen to notice as much when I finally did respond. Fortunately, those who did notice were quite understanding — life happens, as most of us know, and certain things are going to take a backseat.
In the past, I haven’t been as lucky, and readers have told me in fairly harsh language how they feel about me “finally getting around” to their “extremely important email,” that I “should be ashamed” at myself for acting so flippant, etc.
I get angry comments, emails and voicemails all the time, so it doesn’t faze me much. But, tragedies happen to everyone in every week of every month of every year, and the last thing someone — no matter how important he or she is in terms of public figure status — thinks about in a time of pain or grief is to respond to an email.
You never know what the other person on the end of en electronic message is dealing with. It’s important we all remember that the next time we get frustrated with an empty inbox.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached at email@example.com.