How to Respond to Media Criticism

If you're a member of the media—and aren't we all, thanks to [platitude about Twitter]?—chances are that you're going to be the subject of some "media criticism" sooner or later. Will you let it destroy you? Why? Handling it like a pro is surprisingly easy!

In order to understand media criticism etiquette, it is essential to understand this: media critics are also part of the media. Crazy, right? This means that it is not just the substance of the criticism that matters; equally important is exactly which part of the media ecosystem the criticism is coming from, and the relation of that part of the media ecosystem to your own part of the media ecosystem. Observe:

If you are a member of: the A-list media (Large newspapers and magazines, well-known TV news shows, etc.)
And your critic is a member of: the Professional scrappy sniping media (professional bloggers, online media critics, niche publications)
The proper response to criticism is: A considered look at the facts of the critique; a determination of their worth; and a curt, professional response to the claim on its merits. Do not get drawn into mud-slinging with those of a lower class. And whatever you do, do not come off as self-important. That's a killer.
Do not be like: Chris Jones.

If you are a member of: the Professional scrappy sniping media
And your critic is a member of: the Amateur scrappy sniping internet media (unpaid bloggers, Twitterers, commenters)
The proper response to criticism is: A considered look at the facts of the critique; a fair response; a correction, if necessary. And don't be afraid to toss a joke in there! This is the internet, for chrissake.
Do not be like: Cook's Source.

If you are a member of: the A-list media
And your critic is a member of: the Amateur scrappy sniping internet media
The proper response to criticism is: a fair review of the points raised in aggregate, and a blanket response to them if necessary. A professional-sounding blanket response.
Do not be like: Buzz Bissinger.

If you are a member of: the Professional scrappy sniping media
And your critic is a member of: the A-list media
The proper response is: take huge offense and strike back with your Indignation Flag flying high. Counterattack. This is a great opportunity for you to climb the ladder! Important people are paying attention now! Seize the moment! (Note: only works if A-list criticism was haughty and dismissive, which it usually is.)
Do not be like: Gerald Posner.

If you are a member of: the Amateur scrappy sniping internet media
And your critic is a member of: the A-list media
The proper response is: same as above, but more so. For you, the attention is more valuable than your nonexistent reputation. You can always build that later.
Do not be like: a crazy person on the internet.

Bonus tip: Humility, candidness, and honest self-assessment all work well in any of the above situations. But they're a bitch.

[Photo via Shutterstock]