Newspapers certainly seem to be a dying breed. With news available instantly 24/7 on the internet it’s no wonder that papers are finding it hard to make money. To try and counter their loses, Newspapers are trying new things to help keep themselves in the black. Many have reduced the number of pages to help trim costs. Some are selling more ad space while reducing story length. Most of them are publishing online editions. You can see a select few stories for free and, for the price of a regular subscription, read the entire newspaper from your computer or mobile device…advertising included. What’s even more interesting is that many allow readers to post comments on the stories they read online.
On the surface it’s not a bad idea. Let readers have a dialog with each other about the news of the day. Unfortunately, the implementation hasn’t kept up with long established newspaper polices. Nearly every online newspaper I’ve come across that allows reader comments don’t require those posting to provide their real identity. The result is you end up with regular bully-posters who badger, slander, insult, ridicule and attack other posters, the subjects of stories, and the newspaper itself while hiding behind a veil of anonymity. I’m convinced these anonymous bullies would never say a tenth of what they currently do if their real names were on the post. I’m willing to bet that most of them are wannabe journalists who don’t have much of a life beyond seeing who they can slam and somehow make themselves feel important in the process. I’m also confident that the vast majority of them would never be willing to say the things they post about someone to their face.
The saddest part about the whole situation is that the newspapers allow the bullying to continue. They don’t impose enforceable rules posters need to follow. Wouldn’t it be easy to use the same rules they apply to their opinion/editorial pages to the online editions? Last I knew anonymous posts weren’t allowed on the opinion page and the result is you typically find a much more civil tone in the letters, emails and comments that are published. Alas, the newspapers have chosen to allow the online posting free-for-all probably with the hopes that it will somehow increase readership or that someday they’ll find a way to monetize the comments. In my mind they’ve stooped to the level of supermarket tabloids.
Newspapers certainly seem to be a dying breed, and the things they are doing to try to save themselves are only alienating and driving away their readers.