09 December 2008

Stirring the Pot

One of the things that bothers me most about the whole idea of the "New Media" isn't that the formula puts more power in the hands of users to generate both content and comment, but that the current format really allows very little control over what those "outside of the box" provide. Here's one example. In a story in today's Pioneer Press about poor people getting medical help at the Minneapolis convention center, one commenter offered his/her/its two-cents on the matter (note: the following comment is unaltered) on the story's comment board.
"This is communissm. If people want things like this then they should get jobs and pay for them. This is the kind of thing what is going to happen more and more and take money from good Christian folks what work for a living now that we have a socialism president like Barak Hussein Obamma."
This isn't the best example I've seen from the half-cocked netherworld, but it ranks up there. Before I get into further detail, let me say this: I'm all for people expressing a rational, well-argued point of view. But whenever stories with any sort of poor people getting help or immigrants convicted of crimes pop up, it's the last thing we get. Instead of nuanced debate, forums like the one on twincities.com (and others) turn from public discussions into bastions of name-calling and pettiness spiced up with views best left hidden behind cutesy (and unrevealing) monikers.
I know my days of working at a publication that publishes an actual tangible product (how 20th century of us) are numbered. I lament this, not because of the format itself, but because of the controls (on our part) that go along with it. There is no sort of vetting when it comes to a comment board. Part of me thinks this is by design. If you can find a way to bring people to your website by any means, you would be a fool not to take it. However, this isn't most professions. This is history. This is what people look back on when they want a mostly-accurate picture of what happened when. It's one thing to write an angry letter to a newspaper, where there is some checking and accountability involved in getting it printed. It's quite another to fire off half-baked theory on a comment board under an assumed name with the desire of stirring the pot.
The New Media is a field worth exploring if you are brave enough, but I wish there was some way of weeding out the cowards who have A.) little to add to any debate or conversation, of B.) the lack of courage to reveal their true identity to stand by their words.
As a reporter, as a professional, I have to cite sources in stories and use my own name. I do not have the luxury of hiding behind a veil of Internet anonymity. I have to be able to justify those words and my conduct with not only my readers, but also my superiors. If one has the power to impact lives with words, this is the way it should be.

1 comment:

FECH said...

In the spirit of this post, all I have to say is "Ur teh gay libtard LOL!!!11!OMG."