Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's a Standard

Since socio-anthropologists of the future may inadvertently refer to this Journal from time to time (if there's still "time" at that time) while looking for clues as to why and how that kooky Twenty-First Century Internet fad eventually expired, I think that it is incumbent upon me to chronicle some of the benchmarks in that extirpation.
Here's one:
How the online newspapers went the way of the paper newspaper, exemplified by the wildly chaotic dissemblage of the New Bedford Standard Times' prank website, SouthCoastToday.
And you, dear reader of this Journal, might have induced what I believe has precipitated that undoing, at least in my briefly-profitable print journalist's eyes: comments sections.
As with everything else in this new world of ubiquitous vulgarity and amateur slop, the respectable public is asked to quietly endure the continued misinterpretation of First Amendment rights exhibited by self-important shut-ins who must deface every bit of online commentary space in order to reinforce their own dumb-founding narcissism by imprinting their demesne anonymously.
Unfortunately, badgers are more discriminating and gallant in marking their territory.
As if it were a medical condition (and I'm sure that it is), commentarazzi "comment" on every article in the online version of the local newspaper. They habitually voice the same knee-jerk responses to articles, letters to the editor, editorials, and opinion columns. You can recognize their tired cants, as they cry out through the bars on their cells: "Look, world, I'm alone in here, flinging my feces!!!"
One such is obsessed with repeatedly and viciously attacking friends of mine. Oh, and also homosexuals, crime victims, community volunteers, women, activists, environmentalists, educators, children, and Democrats. Like most of his peers, he demeans every community event, hope, idea, and undertaking, snivelingly huffing into the all-too-common coward's gambit usually referred to as the "hit-and-run."
There's the guy who calls the local radio station, exhibiting an inability to apprehend the difference between "non-profit"and "charity." Which elicits uproarious and pitying laughter in some sectors.
Then there are the delusionals who carefully search each story for a missing bit of punctuation or fact-finding, and point out how the whole entire world has been forever fouled due to that carelessness. The zany irony is that one idiot posts three or four times in rapid succession to correct himself. Without ever prefacing each fussbudgetty rant with "And another thing!"
There's the local hypercritical "environmental" obsessive who links to hysterical stories about Love Canal.
And the guy who hawks his own denigrating and demeaning website in blatant and imprudently-tolerated violation of the SouthCoastResponse terms of service. (There, he features his own bulletin-board forum for like-minded contrarian imbeciles and their strawmen, sockpuppets, and red herrings. In a perfect world, he would merely be providing a lamebrained incidental online counterpoint to actual, responsible news sources. This world: not so perfect, what with there not actually being an actual, responsible news source and all.)
These blatherskites who assume that their comments must make some whit of difference to the newspaper organization are constantly and fanatically prattling only to the ether. I know members of the writing staff who certainly don't read the nonsense. I have heard rumors that someone is employed to do so, but none of the writing staff that I know even bother to look at it. (I was even told that a former owner merely shrugs and shakes his head whenever the thing is mentioned.)
Besides wearisome cliché-ridden harrying of the political adversaries lurking in their paranoid delusions, their most constant bugbear appears to be the newspaper organization itself. Here, I pick no argument. The paper is ludicrously inept, and wields no blue pencil at irrelevant and vague detail, character assassination, suspicious fictions, irresponsible palaver, and groundless fabrication present in their comments.
Of course, by definition, any admonition offered to the commentarazzi against soiling their own linens is both feckless and fruitless.
Plus, these habitually whiny victims will just stamp their little feet about their "rights" being violated or some such rot. Unaware that their pointless scribblings merely provide unrecognized and unremunerated content to the already content-light online Standard-Times, they will battle to continue enhancing only the make-believe selling point: "site visitors."
My own pathetic obsession with scrolling past the last line for the outlandish entertainment below notwithstanding, I see no use in the continued misuse of the paper's resources. As the commentarazzi impractically and absurdly complain about their rights, the rest of us are left only to deal with their wrongs.


ThirdMate said...

I left this out in editing this:
Of course, I don't illustrate much "responsibility" here myself. And certainly not responsible news reportage. But this journal is an obvious repository of my own thoughts, with my own logo and my own regular features and obvious, well-documented idiosyncrasies. I'm not anonymous or personality-disordered, and I try to be even-handed. Generally without ad hominem attacks. For the most part.

I follow the rules set down by Blogger™ and various blogger codes of conduct. I also am not a psychiatrist or mental health diagnostician, so the use of psychobabble is, clearly, for colorful descriptive purposes only. But does it take a medical professional to recognize some severely disordered personalities in our midst.

Anonymous said...

The editor of the newspaper wrote a "Blame Everbody" editorial on June 28 http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090628/OPINION/906280335 , which mentioned "grotesque mayhem" in NB. He allows those commenters that you mention. And why doesn't he blame himself whiule he's at it?
The negative attitudes is to blame for the negative perception of New Bedford.

ThirdMate said...

Here's the problem with blame:

The first step of faulty logic is to assume that there is a "negative perception" of New Bedford. Realistic perception tells you that there are troubles and positive attitudes help deal with those problems. Bob Unger's desire to show all sides and please everyone gives these sickos a voice that seems official and catholic.

These obscene opportunists leave no room for other opinions (I've seen them attack), and Unger does let it go on and on when he should actually take a page from his hero Rudy Giulliani and just clean the streets of these nuts.

The constant negative commentary provided on the S-T webpages is provided by unhealthy people. With a daily need to type their irrelevent opinions and unresolved irrational fears into a little box. These are complex people who are members of my community. I think. BUT:

Actual, contributing members of my community don't use words like "crimmigrant" or "kill'em all" or "don't deserve to live" or "get over it." Those are the words of bad people. I do not believe that The Beach -- New Bedford in particular -- can sustain that amount of evil, broadcast to a wider audience, as though it were ashared and sanctioned opinion of the whole city.

Online comments are like grafitti: in some cases it's useful, beautiful, communicative art. Everything else is just smug, empty, ego-stroking vandalism.

Carol said...

As one who occasionally comments but assumes only 20 people read comments online, I think it's nuts that the S-T actually features these comments in the print edition occasionally. The S-T is an anemic newspaper, perhaps because it has no competitor. The reporters seem to be underworked and often fail to do obvious research and critical analysis, even though they are not bad writers. The S-T misses many stories. You don't see the reporters madly scribbling down quotes as we did in my day (I was a reporter for a weekly and daily paper 1988-1990). I've experienced surly customer service when placing an ad. And then we hear that S-T ad revenues are down "following the national trend." I think it's a product quality issue. But consider: Comment contributors such as Peggi Medeiros add much-needed backstory the reporters refuse to report. Also, New Bedford is the most non-communicative city in which I've ever lived (I'm told it's due to ethnic polarization and the legacy of Franco), so any public forum is a plus here. And we need more critical analysis of decisionmaking and mayoral press releases.
Perhaps what we need is a forum that is not anonymous.

Carol said...

Just one more: I suspect the S-T staff believes the Internet is its future so they will do whatever it takes to get "readers" engaged in the online version. Jack Spillane got snappy with me when I urged him to include some of his blog content in his newspaper column.

ThirdMate said...

Hi, Carol!
I always wince when Peggi clarifies an issue because "mikeGOP" will snark away in a cowardly, egoistic, and ungentlemanly manner. A truly moderated forum would not allow that, and a moderated forum -- anonymous or not -- is what I expect from my community newspaper.

(I have heard that there is supposedly an online "moderator," but if it's who I think it is, he calls the U.S. President a "raghead with an unpatriotic wife," so there's that. I have also heard that S-T writers are required to "blog" -- and endure personal attacks bordering on slander -- as a condition of employment.)

It's an economic issue. Investors turn to local media to check up on the sales pitch that NBEDC has carefully crafted for them. How can anyone (potential city stakeholders included) trust a city that allows such published output, featuring political treason, racism, hate speech, and personal slander?

I'm pretty sure though, Carol, that you don't comment in order to selfishly grouse over some picayune details in stories that fall outside of your (extensive) expertise and experience. Plus: you actually take part in the community in a positive way.

Anonymous said...

Generalissimo Francisco Franco died in 1975, and his legacy still haunts New Bedford?

ThirdMate said...

We're a town with strong ties to the past.

Salazar might have shushed a few of the old senhoras. But I'm pretty sure that particular ethnic group's reticence is due to general tightknit insularity and decades of (real or metaphoric) ghettoization by Massachusetts politicians.

Around the SouthCoast, a few familiar-sounding names on every non-profit donor list means that everybody else of that background -- Portuguese, Irish, Yankee, whatever -- is safely assured that a few representative suckers are shouldering the civic burden for the rest.

Carol said...

The BBC's MO of asking opinion questions and moderating the answers is probably a good model.

Franco: Yes, I meant Tito.

All that said, I do enjoy reading Jack's blog.

Peggi is tough. I'm so glad she speaks up. So few do here.