Where is the line between constructive criticism and personal attack?

As I sit here reflecting on what to write for an interesting but still meaningful editorial, I cannot help but think about the responses and reactions, often negative, to what the Tripod staff and I put into print. Criticism is expected when one is responsible for a publication that publishes articles about almost any topic. There has been plenty of backlash so far, and I am positive that there will continue to be, and I am prepared for that.
But when did the line between receiving negative or opposing responses and being personally attacked become so smudged? It is one thing to give feedback or reply to an article, often with a very different position or belief. After all, that is the purpose of “Letters to the Editor.” It is another thing to confront an individual based upon their article or work and question their beliefs and criticize them on a personal level.
Since I accepted my position within the Tripod, it has seemed that people like to go in the direction of the latter. It is much easier to attack someone and tear them down as a person if you disagree with something they have written than to construct an educational and productive response. However, when people choose to handle these things in the nonconstructive manner, much greater damage is done.
I am the first person to get into a heated argument about a current event or controversial topic. I thoroughly enjoy when someone disagrees with my opinion and truly makes me think about something from an entirely new perspective. But the moment that discussion takes a personal turn, my guard goes up. I do not take lightly to people questioning my morals, my integrity, and my work ethic. Like we are always told, there is more to a person than what is seen on the surface. People are constantly going through their own struggles and trying to succeed in all that they do without the need to be criticized and torn down.
As Editor-In-Chief, it is irrelevant how I identify politically, what my family’s income is, how I was raised, my religious beliefs, or anything else of this nature. Other than through my editorials, I am very cautious to keep those personal aspects of my life separate from what the Tripod Staff puts into print. If there is an issue or concern about the newspaper itself and what is published, I am more than happy to address it. I ask people to never hesitate to contact me. But if someone would like to attack me as an individual, I do not want to hear it.
And, for the record, I will never “come to someone’s room on a Saturday night to learn how to properly run an organization and check for typos.” I am not, nor ever will I be perfect, but I feel that I am doing an okay job.

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