Traditional Media misses one of the reasons behind Social Media successes.
Of those 92,000 people, there are 72,891 adults, (16,856 of whom are seniors) with most being (presumably) literate. But of those who are literate (and some who are not), most are blessed with their own perspective, ideals, their own take on the community and thoughts on each day’s events. In short they have their own opinions.
And for the time of all humanity before the early 1990’s, those opinions might have been limited to written correspondence, trips before a jury, the occasional party, social gathering, political event, or even a torch and pitchfork mob. Daily expressions of perspective were hardly possible or practicable, or anything close to what can be done now within seconds on new media platforms such as email, Facebook, Gab , instagram, or Twitter.
And newsprint media has always had, yet strangely maintains it’s own limits. The local newspaper is typically published daily and has one, and rarely two pages dedicated to the pulse of the community.
Of those nearly 17,000 seniors in our county (as described above), how many don’t have any interest in Facebook or the other platforms? Out of those shouldn’t we be curious how many have given up on trying to let their views be seen because of limits that the print media enforces in its soy-ink ‘community’ forum?
Wouldn’t an abundance of public commentary and response be rewarding to the publishers through increased subscriptions and engagement? What if those who have no outlet now were able to better express point and counterpoint in print?
The sad fact is, editors often attempt to substitute their own biases in article placement, omission, or even from the high-seat of the ‘editorial.’ Presumably, this is a reflection of the community they serve, often couched with a “We believe this ..,” or “It seems that ..” in an oblique presentation of community conscience.
Indeed, once upon a time some crazy political activist Jason Gillman, was called a bigot not merely once from such a high and lofty place, but twice. Clearly the ‘community’ had spoken through it’s media proxy, had it not? The ‘truth’ had been proclaimed!
If such a statement of ‘fact’ were made on twitter, or Facebook, there would be a number of ‘likes’ or ‘angry’ or ‘lol’ emojis almost immediately. Then too would also be broad and sweeping generalizations and opinions that lean in support of, or against such a statement! Oh my.
The Traverse City Record Eagle had never sold as many papers as when they were attacking this particular activist. And the letters penned demanding resignation from the county commission seat held by Gillman were swiftly crafted fallacy filled screeds of hate and vitriol. It seems that even the letter count norm of one or two was briefly expanded to accommodate the extra-extra-read all-about-it of the day.
Yet one can respond, correct, debunk, such garbage only a singular time within thirty days.
There was no way to know if the editorial staff at the paper culled the worst, or if what we saw was the worst. But personal reflections from others who were denied an opportunity to opine defensively on this matter of bigotry revealed fairness would never be allowed to happen.
I know of those who wrote in support and were told their ‘opinions’ were told “not true” by then R-E editors. Some offering personal experiences conflicting with the statement of bigotry were denied because they had already had a letter published within a 30 day window. Some were never told why their submissions did not appear.
Fortunately those editors are now gone. One of them literally hauled out by the police when he wouldn’t empty his desk and leave gracefully, as requested by management.
However, correspondence limits remain. And in a community that has 70,000 plus opinionated adults, there are only two letters of opinion published daily. Only two letters, usually not germane to any local conversations but serially reflecting a gripe about our president, or maybe even one in support, as-if there is needed some sort of ‘balance.’.
It must be said, that our local paper has improved in its reporting since the fish-wrap picture was created above, but it still limits the editorial page conversation that could sell it even more. Perhaps we could have a robust discussion that does not limit a person to one comment on one topic, and could open the door to a new social media platform that is actually in print?
It wouldn’t mirror Facebook. However, with a response that is sent to be published permanently, it should be better tempered. It would not be anonymous, and time might have salved such indignities that the writer feels are worthy of reprise. But it would allow for folks to communicate outside of internet-only communications, and actually interact around the reporting the paper does.
Newsworthy topics are more plentiful than one a month, are they not?
Readers should be able to reflect on them as often as they like. And such a broader forum would be one of the first places many would go, much like the highly successful online communities that have replaced traditional media.
The permanence would be a factor as well.
It has been said that “the internet is forever.” This is not so much the case anymore. However, once something has been web-pressed as a newspaper and distributed to tens of thousands? Immortal.
Local papers who are trying to save their soy inked operations should seriously consider becoming print media 2.0, remove the platform barriers of editorial bias, and open wide the operational limits.
Print what is sent, when it is sent. Let the words and writers speak for themselves.
Let the community opine at will, and it will.