Accepting Criticism

Convener:  Jack Coleman


  • John Christofferson, AP
  • Adam Gorlick, AP
  • Amanda Klimiata, Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester
  • Rosemarie, Amanda’s mother
  • Betty Adams, Kennebec Journal


The topic I selected was accepting criticism. I chose it because I think being able to accept criticism in an open, even-handed manner, and to work with people who do the same, goes a long way toward producing quality journalism. But saying that is one thing, living and working by it another, and that’s why I wanted to talk about this during our open circle session.

The suggestion came from Jack Coleman, political reporter from the Cape Cod Times. Taking part were Associated Press reporters John Christofferson and Adam Gorlick; Amanda Klimiata, a student at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester; and Amanda’s mother, Rosemarie, who accompanied her daughter to the conference. Joining us a few minutes after the session started was Betty Adams from the Kennebec Journal.

Jack started the session and took notes and, when it came time to write this for the online record of the entire open circle proceedings, wished he’d been more conscientious in taking those notes.

Adam suggested that having a good editor, one who knows how to offer criticism in a constructive manner, goes a long way toward it being accepted in the same manner.

The person on the receiving end, Adam suggested, “has to be willing to see things very differently … you have to get over your own ego … you have to aspire to that ideal.”

Rosemarie suggested that “it’s not always ego, it can be insecurity.”

Jack said that a good way to resolve differences that can arise out of criticism leading to tension is an exercise he had seen involving conflict resolution. Each person is asked to summarize the position or assertion of the other. On the occasion when he had seen it done, neither person came close to what the other was saying.

The ability to do this, Jack said, shows the other person that you have understood their position and that your response is based on that understanding. Too often differences that emerge when criticism is offered stem from misunderstandings and unclear communication.

John said criticism passed face to face is better than over the phone, that so much of what is conveyed through facial expressions are lost in a phone call.

Jack said that how requests for corrections are handling is a good barometer of how open the journalists in a newsroom are to criticism. Too often, from what he had heard when other reporters were asked for corrections, and when he had been asked, the request was met defensively. Most of the time, however, the request was valid.

After about 40 minutes, the members of the group agreed to end the discussion to listen in on other groups.

This entry was posted in Session Notes. Bookmark the permalink.