The newsroom agenda and silencing commenters

The news media often gets a bad rap. Sometimes doubly so on their internet forums and social media outlets. While I can’t speak for large TV and internet news conglomerations, I can tell you a couple things about your average city newsroom.

The agenda

The agenda of your typical newsroom is simple: News. Reporters, by and large, are invested in giving as accurate a report of a story from all sides as possible. That doesn’t stop people from seeing into a story what they want though. I’ve seen multiple occasions where we will get calls on the same story from opposing factions saying that the story was clearly favoring the other side — which typically means we’re doing our job pretty well.

Also: It may surprise some, but a newsroom is diverse — with Christians, Atheists, liberals and conservatives all working side by side.

Silencing commenters

I’ve been accused, on a few occasions, of preventing people from posting comments or deleting them. On every one of those occasions, that has not been the case.

It’s an exceptionally rare case for a comment to be deleted (usually due to a liability concern and only after discussing the comment with someone else). More often than not, your comment was posted but you’re experiencing a delay or cookie issue. If you’re patient your comment will show up, usually within 5 to 15 minutes. In cases where you can’t even post a comment, it’s likely an oversensitive spam filter or a glitch and a talk with the webmaster can resolve it.

On the rare occasion when I DO delete a comment, I make it a point to explain why to the commenter. It’s never cool to leave someone in the dark.

A healthy dose of criticism

All of this isn’t to say news organizations don’t make mistakes. And when people call us out on them, the last thing we want to do is silence them. First of all, criticism is good. It helps us improve and keeps us on our toes. Secondly, I’ve seen how people treat organizations that try to silence opposition or critique. Just as in real life, in the online world if you try to quiet someone they get louder than ever. I prefer the taste of humble pie.

SOUND OFF: Are you in social media, news, or public relations? How do you handle criticism and accusations?

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3 Comments

  1. I’m not currently employed by any media outlet but I do understand the tendency to antagonize the outlet over a misinterpretation of your treatment. When any of my participation in any style of publication hits the editing room floor I feel rejected and take it personally, and typically decide those DBs don’t deserve me as a reader if they refuse me as a writer. I think it’s important to keep in mind that being excluded is not personal, but there is a little emotional bite nonetheless.

    However, to provide a little counter point, I don’t think Fox News works that way. If you read “The Loudest Voice in the Room” by Gabriel Sherman, a book written about Fox News President Roger Ailes, you’ll see an example of a news source that does not attempt to cover all sides of a story but instead attempts to tell the viewer that they should have the same half-thought opinion about everything that Roger Ailes has. Propaganda at its finest. The book provides a practical guide to everything that a news source should not be.

    • Rejection always stings — whether you’re a freelance writer that just got shafted, or a reporter who got a mouthful from a commenter. It’s always a good idea to calm yourself down before interacting with someone.

      Along with the second part of “3 conversation don’ts” I’m working on, I think I may have to start a “conversation do’s.” Checking your emotions at the door would be a great thing to add to such a list.

  2. Pingback: Censorship: Corroding the “marketplace of ideas” and silencing truth | social media rabbit

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