Dorie L. Griggs

Don't Let Work Questions Spoil Peace, Sanctuary

By Dorie L. Griggs
First Published in Southern Newspaper Publishers Association eBulletin
April 17, 2003

Sanctuary: 1. A sacred place, as a church, temple, or mosque. 2. A place giving refuge or asylum.

The word sanctuary has such wonderful appeal in our fast paced lives; a place where we can find refuge when all is going crazy around us. Unfortunately many journalists do not find their sanctuaries, or place of worship, a safe place to be still. Instead they find an atmosphere where they are less protected from questions about their latest assignment. Too often congregants are more likely to voice displeasure about an editorial, or circulation decision, because you are right there in front of them.

It is a sad situation. It is sad for the journalist seeking a place to be still. It is sad because the other members of the faith community do not see in their midst a soul in need of nurture. It is sad because too often the members of the clergy are just as guilty as the members of their congregation in attacking the messenger.

Fortunately many places of worship are welcoming environments for all their visitors. But, if you are one of the people who have experienced a confrontational situation, a few suggestions follow.

If you are new to a community and want to find a place to worship, make an appointment with the clergy person of the congregation before you visit. Explain your feelings and ask for their support. Many times the clergy person is not aware of the nuances of certain professions. Bringing your experience to his/her attention will aid both you and the clergy person as well as the congregation.

Some people prefer to visit unannounced and blend in. Blending in can be very hard if your photo appears in the paper, if your byline is high profile, or if you have a high profile in the community. If questions are out of line, you can always tell the person you are there to worship. This should be a clear reminder of where you both are and bring back in to focus the reason you are in this place.

If they continue to ask work-related questions, they clearly are not aware of their environment. Remind them again of your desire to worship. You can acknowledge their concern and ask them to send an e-mail or voice message to you at work. By doing so you have given them the opportunity to vent, so do expect a message. You should be prepared to answer them, but you can do so on your terms and in your time frame.

The information provided in this column is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice.

Dorie L. Griggs holds a Master of Divinity degree and her ministry is to journalists. Contact her via e-mail: dorie@stanleyleary.com

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