It Would Be Fun to Run a Newspaper
Post title courtesy of Charles Foster Kane – who I believe would agree with my assessment below…
I read the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News online almost every day. Even if I’m busy a quick scan of both sites provide me a stomach full of what’s happening in the city. Even though these two papers are owned by the same company, both have unique attributes and writers, and I appreciate the access to both.
One development that’s now fully evolved in both dailies is the incorporation of articles written by readers into their newspapers, both online and print. The Denver Post has “Your Hub,” which is an entire section written by readers and contributors. Many times a headline on Denverpost.com will link directly to a “Your Hub” article, so instead of reading an article by a journalist you are now reading a rant from “Debbie in Aurora.” Some are well written, others aren’t. But there’s little separation between this and the professional content, and I don’t like that.
Newspapers are in bad shape financially. I haven’t touched a print paper in months, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever purchased a newspaper. However even if the majority of content is now online a newspaper IS an important presence in a city. It always has been and I hope it always will be. That air of authority a daily paper carries is why I prefer articles written by long standing writers, (syndicated or local,) and columnists over local residents. Other than “letters to the editors” I believe that the “neighborhood beat” pieces should NOT be swallowed up into the pages of these papers. Articles written by amateurs, (myself included,) have their place – but NOT as a constant part of a major daily.
My other gripe is the incorporation of comments in the articles. Similar to blogs, almost every professionally written article is now followed by a slew of comments written by everyone and anyone with something to say. Important yet divisive articles on immigration, politics, and religion are always trailed by hundreds of back and forth lines by many of the same commentors, and almost always deteriorate into insults and name calling.
Unfortunately such long strings of comments don’t paint the residents of our fine state and city in a very positive light. Very few stay on topic, and it seems few comments are screened unless they contain blatant profanity or the worst of derogatory terms.
Every Boulder story is followed by snarky comments mocking it’s liberal leanings. Many, too many comments bash Hispanics, (often on articles that have nothing to do with immigration.) Even a non biased fluff article like “Gay Pride wrap-up” receives hundreds of views exposing angry personal opinions. And conversely an article about suburban mega churches net angry leftist prose about how religion is the root of all things medieval and antiquated. Pick a random article and read through the comments: Drivers hate cyclists. Cyclists hate SUVS. Gays hate everything in Colorado Springs. Liberals hate the suburbs. Light rail opponents insult and chastise those in favor. Those in favor of such city initiatives call opponents militant rednecks. These repetitive and inflammatory comments take away from what the article, especially if a commentary, is actually saying.
Today’s front (online) page of the Rocky Mountain News features a banal story about a road restriping error in remote northwestern county. Knowing that summer in Colorado often leads to tensions between motorists and cyclists, and there’s already been numerous articles about “sharing the road,” am I stretching to think that this piece is just trolling for agitated readers and huffy comments? Are articles being written for their value alone, or more so to instigate “discussion” among readers? If the latter, then the writer is under the influence to coerce the style and manner in which the original article is written in fishing for return commenters.
Web 2.0 is wonderful. It allows one to engage in immediate debate and discussion on any topic, whether breaking news or ancient history. Bloggers and commenters SHOULD be respected for taking the time to write their opinions and share their thoughts. Blogs equal the playing field and give the little guy a global voice. One sole post, (hey maybe this one,) can challenge and TAKE ON a big company.
However some platforms should maintain a respectful level of dignity, and I don’t think the two largest and most influential newspapers in the state should display the unfettered rantings of hundreds behind every article. At the very least its embarrassing when you consider people worldwide read these two papers online.
Why not allow readers to submit their comments, and then have someone review them and select which ones are posted? If the comment is insightful and engaging THEN approve it. I’d rather read 10-20 well thought out smart comments than 250 repetitive insults. Many online papers already follow this method, and while it certainly requires some extra time it will filter out the nonsense, insults, and garbage – and allow readers to absorb the BEST writing by our most well spoken citizens.
So how about it Denver newspapers? Let’s start moderating so we can achieve some moderation. You’ll save some bandwidth too.
James Van Dellen