I’d been warned.
But I did not heed the warning: do not look at comments posted about your news stories. I’ve heard various incarnations of this statement, and yet…and yet, I do view online feedback.
Sometimes it’s helpful. Sometimes, it’s encouraging.
And sometimes it makes me want to throw down my
pen computer in disgrace, hide under the covers, and emerge in 20 years. Rip van Nads. In the days before my forays into journalism, I viewed online comments as a sort of cross-section of reader opinion, and I was interested in what people had to say, the arguments they’d get into and what they wanted to know more about. I was entertained.
But now, I might disagree with myself. I’m not sure comments are helpful or representative. Forums aren’t really a cross-section at all — they’re more like using a magnifying glass when an x-ray is needed. I think the only forum for some folks’ frustration is online — and off they go. Commenting on the issues presented in a story is one thing, but personally responding to or ridiculing the writer on a newspaper’s website is…troubling. And petty.
But it’s not that simple.
What is a writer to do? After all, we are writing for our audience…our words don’t simply disappear into the ether (we hope). Otherwise, what’s the point? Isn’t feedback important? If readers care enough to respond, shouldn’t their opinions matter? And don’t we, as writers, want to produce pieces readers will enjoy?
I’ve always valued criticism. In my dancing years, I found constructive feedback to be more useful than praise. Yes, it’s nice to know when you’ve done something well — especially after a performance! — but unless you strive for mediocrity, it’s even nicer when someone can help make improvements. Just as you can’t toss data disproving your hypothesis, you can’t accept the positive comments and ignore the negative ones. The bad and the good go together…
…if you choose to open Pandora’s online forum.
So, for your enjoyment and in an effort to poke fun at some of my own fumbles, I donned protective armor and bushwhacked my way through thorny online commentary in search of some prickly comments. In all honesty, I find many of these funny or just plain whack (like #2)…others might have a point.
A. From today’s story about whale-tale identification:
1. “Any other info, stater of the obvious? Maybe you can regale us with the fact they’re real fat, have big heads and eyes, not to mention giant muscles, and the fact they could kill you if they wanted. Are they always wet? Did you get a chance to shake their flukes and give a good ol’ tree hug? …..” [it goes on…and was just deleted from the site. hmm.]
2. “Apparently, baby reporter is clicking on icons. Not very professional, my dear.”
B. From a weather story:
3. “Fall colors in this area, is that meant to be a joke.” …?
I took that photo on Friday. In this area.
C. From the mountain lion story:
4. “Great story Nadia!. How’s your sister?” [she’s quite well]
5. “Every one just now wants to understand the mountain lion or the cat? LOL! You’ve got to be kidding??? This has got to be one of the funniest thing I have read….” [sic, sic, sic, sigh]
D. From the lost dog story:
6. “Another heart warming puff piece by the corporate owned Sentinel to push for electronic tagging of every animal and soon humans.”
E. From my first-day-on-the-job story:
7. “But, revisionist history is at work. That and shoddy Senile reporting.”
Of course, there are more.
But I will open the issue to comments (for real!) as I’m interested to hear what the rest of you think about this. I’m also vaguely remembering something Alexis Madrigal said to us about how he deals with comments — forums are “like a dinner party,” right? The rude peeps are booted and the polite ones — even those who disagree — are invited to stay. Maybe somebody can help me out with reproducing that analogy…