As a reporter who writes mostly about homes and gardens, I don't get a lot of hate mail or angry phone calls. Nothing like the days when I covered city hall and could expect at least one or two a day.
Life is calmer, but I have sometimes wondered if anyone -- other than my mother -- is reading my stories at all, or just glancing at the pretty pictures.
But homes, in this economy, are a lot more controversial than they used to be. Just this week, the Star Tribune published two letters from readers critical of the Homes section. Here's today's: "Opening this section makes me sick. I am usually not a bitter person, but I can only wonder how anyone can afford this stuff." (http://www.startribune.com/opinion/letters/182904101.html)
I also fielded a few annoyed phone calls last month when we published a story about pianist Lorie Line's $4 million lakeshore mansion, and then, three days later, a story about it heading into foreclosure. (www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/179217631.html)
Featuring rich people's houses is "rubbing it in readers' noses" that they will never live like that, one caller told me.
For what it's worth, we do try to feature a mix of houses -- big and small, expensive and modest -- as well as overall home-related trends that affect everyone. When we do have a grandiose home in our section, we try to balance it with another story about something more accessible.
Before the recession, big, expensive homes rarely generated comment. And their owners were, on the whole, happy to share them with readers.
The faltering economy changed that dramatically. Affluent homeowners got a lot more reluctant to showcase their affluence when so many others were struggling. When we did feature a big, expensive house, we got a lot more negative feedback.
Last week, I had lunch with a freelance writer who told me she's changing her focus. "I can't write about rich peope's houses anymore," she said.
Me, I'm still fascinated by all the spaces we call "home" and the people who create them. I love the quirky starving artists' homes and the freedom they feel to glue rocks to their woodwork and paint murals on their ceilings. I love the elegant old mansions, and the sleek modern dwellings. I even loved the "punk house" I wrote about a few years ago, where a bunch of young musicians were staging shows in their filthy basement.
How about you? Are you sick of seeing homes that you can't personally afford? Or do you like peeking inside all kinds of homes?