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Comment: Emails, and why John Lewis is among "best places to work in Peterborough this Christmas"

Last month I wrote about our court system and why we cover it the way we do. The piece did well, so I'm continuing with these; there's a council one on its way, but in the meantime I thought I'd concentrate on emails.

If you weren't aware, our daily email newsletter - which goes out to nearly 30,000 people - has the top ten stories from our site in chronological order. It is by far the biggest driver of traffic to our site, showing that Facebook (Meta?), Twitter and the rest haven't quite seen the email off yet.

We receive a huge number of email inquiries every day, from people wanting to find friends who they haven't seen since 1979 to upcoming shows and gigs; from forthright views on our council leader to a gallery of photographs from a local churchyard.

Some are defamatory, or unreadable. I've received them in every colour and font, including Comic Sans. But most are interesting, and often point out things we hadn't noticed or discovered. Covid, in particular, has been the subject of many an interesting read.

We're variously addressed in numerous ways. In the last month alone I've had messages in my inbox calling me Jon, Josh, and even Susan and Debbie. 
Emails often start with hello, or hi, or good morning, but complaints often stride straight past the pleasantries, which I quite respect. I usually return the favour with relish, if appropriate.

Others start with a line such as "I've contacted [another media organisation] and they didn't respond, so now I'm trying you", which is the very definition of a bold opening gambit. 

The vast majority are sent from Peterborough or the surrounding area. but there are some from further afield from marketing and press teams, and show a clear lack of local knowledge or just display bad timing. 

An example: I recently received a press release from a company which had worked out what proportion of workers would recommend each respective employer to a friend looking for a job across the country.

It was entitled 'These are the best & worst high street companies to be working for in Peterborough'.

The fifth best was John Lewis and Partners.

I checked, dear reader, but Toys R Us, Comet and Woolworths were surprisingly nowhere to be found.

Now I know that 'John Lewis and Partners' does encompass Waitrose as well, who are very much still here, but the mere suggestion, the slightest rumour of the story making it to print, and our reader comments would leave us as bedraggled as a Cathedral Square Christmas tree.

Another email from two weeks ago, listed Peterborough as the 'third best city in the country in which to commute'. 

I'm being a little bit mean on this one because it had used scientific data for this bold claim, based on costs and green factors - but speaking as someone who has been overtaken in the past week by a convoy of mobility scooters, unicyclists and other assorted pavement vehicles near our wretchedly congested roads, I'm not sure it quite holds water at the moment.

One email we did use, and to take a more serious tone; in the late summer Ersou (Eastern Region Special Operations Unit) sent us a release in July stating that with lockdown ending people should be more aware of terrorism, and return of possible acts of terror

We published it and were hammered by readers accusing us of fearmongering, and I was willing to take that criticism. 

Notwithstanding the fact that barely weeks earlier a Peterborough man had been jailed for terrorism offences, sadly it seems that the release seemed to come true all too quickly, albeit not in our area.

Other emails about a lack of toilet rolls, and requesting a full list of garages which had run out of fuel, were not taken forward.

Such is the nature of our job. We take risks with what we or don't publish, and sometimes people won't like it.

The upshot is that some emails will be used, and some won't - we can't please everyone. An email is a message, a trail of evidence, a reminder, a story, a collection of pictures....we'd still be lost without them!