Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Beacon Online part 2

Over the weekend, the ABJ online comments turned into a Lord of the Flies scene. Troops of trolls gang-tagged a long-standing poster: the reasonable and rational one, the fellow who always brought along a fistful of facts to back up his opinions, the one and only -- The Centrist. A polite guy who has put up with mounting abuse over the past few months, The Centrist has been a fixture on the comments boards. If I had a buck for every time somebody called him "Lefty" or "commie dem-o-rat" I'd be able to afford new brakes for my truck.

Some people seem to resent his willingness to express an opinion. They call him a show-off or a know-it-all. These folks are definitely stuck in junior high modes of communicating with their fellow human beings. Then there are the Ultra-rights, for whom anything left of Pat Buchanan is a bleeding heart tax and spend welfare-mama enabling pinko socialist. But the worst of them are the ones that attack blindly without any consideration for anybody else. Centrist has put up with a lot of crap, but this weekend's board activities finally drove him away. One troll began signing his posts with "The Centrist" -- and then one after another began copycatting and piling on until The Real Centrist announced his departure.

Earlier today, I read the comments on the dog pound story, the Stow schools hires an investigator story, and I think there was one on the gasoline price story. The Centrist mockers were running amok. A couple of the other saner posters spoke of leaving the boards as well. A number of posts had been deleted. The Centrist posted one final message about attempting to contact the Beacon about people taking over his identity and how unhappy he was that the Beacon was not interested in moderating their boards. I must say, I have been shocked at some of what has shown up and allowed to stand. I can't imagine what horrors actually provoked deletion.

The Centrist attackers kept up their viciousness at least through the lunch hour. I got home awhile ago from work and checked the ABJ. Mysteriously, all of today's stories with comments were now comment-less. Yesterday's hospital story still has its comment section however. In it, several posters laugh the whole thing off as "you ain't seen nothing til you've seen these sites." Here's an example:

To all of you goodie two shoes types who think you are going to shame the jesters away with your pompous comments, you obviously have no grasp of what the internet is about outside of this forum and your dial up AOL account. This is NOTHING!! Visit www.fark.com and read the comments under each news item. You'll see some outstanding bon mot there. (That means "humorous comments" to you Centrist level people who think you know it all but do not.)

The Middleist

Another poster proffers up this site as a great place for uncivilized discourse: www.somethingawful.com.

I checked both out and don't see the similarity to the Beacon's boards. For one thing, Something Awful and Fark both encourage snarkiness. You get the idea right away that these sites are for people who want to show off their superiority. Even so, both places require registration and both are moderated. This is what the ABJ sorely lacks. Online communities that don't have these two features are prone to troll attacks. Here's an informational posting about trolls for those who haven't read up on them. Even though I've been online for a long time now, the Beacon comment section is really the first time I've seen them in action. The worst I've seen was at the Sucks boards -- but even those are moderated and posters are forever being banned.

The Beacon trolls never bothered me much, probably because of my inconsistant posting. The experience did lead to one good thing -- it inspired me to post comments and then start this blog. I haven't written regularly since the days of my old zine, The Dumpster Times. I did manage to get a message through to The Centrist (I don't know who he is in real life) to check out Blogger and he has commented here that he's working on starting his own blog -- hooray! Looking forward to reading it regularly -- without all the chaos.

Now I'm back at square one with my quandry about paying for the Beacon. Don't want piles of newspaper to recycle. Do want to contribute to the salaries of my favorite reporters and feature writers. Don't want to read ignorant, racist, sexist remarks every day in an unmoderated comments section.

What I really want is to pay for the online version -- as long as it has some cool extra features for subscribers. The state of the comments sections is not cool at all.


The Centrist said...


Thanks for the kind words. It looks like the Beacon, at least temporarily, shut down the comments board on new articles. I hope they rethink their responsibility to readers before they turn them back on.

My blog is up, and can be accessed at the-centrist-at.blogspot.com

I'll post a link to your blog tonight.

Anonymous said...

That people won't pay for news on the Internet isn't as devastating as it seems. People don't pay for news, they pay for the paper. So in theory, giving away the news without the paper looks like a good deal

Village Green said...

True, Anonymous --

But where does the money come to pay for the people who report the news? What newspaper companies are succeeding?

"I just did a search on the troubles going on at the Tribune in Chicago. I got a link to a story at Editor & Publisher. I've gone to this site quite a bit in the past. Now it is pushing subscriptions. I wanted to access an article published on the 22nd and it required that I subscribe. One year for both the print edition and online access goes for $99/year or $7.95 a month for online access only.

The news is not rosy over at Editor and Publisher. There's an article today about a big push to revitalize ad revenues in newspapers and yet according to the article:

Yet, it’s unclear if the campaign is working, especially given the dismal ad revenue results that many public companies have been reporting over the summer."

The site won't let me post a link, so content must be heavily protected there. Well worth the read, however and you can find much more there.


I would pay $7.95 a month for the Beacon online. I wonder how many others would do so?

Anonymous said...

Do you see how cycliccally ironic all of this is? The print media wants to make a push to bring back more advertising. More clients require more sales people. That means more salaries, which makes the profit margin smaller. That also takes up more space, so there is less news, which requires less reporters. The paper will NOT grow in number of pages because that would require more paper, thus higher expenses. With less news, they appeal to less people. That leads to lower circulation, which of course means less money from subscriptions, and less money to pay those extra sales people. The downward spiral continues.

Car manufacturers raise the prices of their product. Consumers can not afford to buy them as often. Thus they lay off people, making for more unemployment, causing those laid off workers to have less money to buy products, which leads to less products being produced, which leads to more layoffs in other industries....

The law of supply and demand does not lie. It never has.

Down here at the consumer level we are helpless to change this. At some point the big guys need to become more philanthropic and less misanthropic and give people jobs so more people have money to spend. Allow that profit margin to shrink for a couple of years so get money infused back into the economy. But nobody wants to go first. Layoffs and downsizing everywhere.

So how do YOU say we get out of this?

Village Green said...

Wow -- you ask me what I'd do to fix things! If I knew the answers, I'd be taking action, not blogging.

There are so many intertwined problems. Nothing seems simple or clear cut. And yet, "simple" is the kind of life style that might be the beginning of an answer.

When we look at all the physical and emotional ills of human beings, so many come from our now sedentary life-styles and our demand for more convenience and more stuff to buy.

What has to happen in Akron in order for its citizens to start thriving rather than battling the wolves at the door? I like Sherrod Brown's ideas for local entrepeneurship in energy efficient products and services. Dammit -- why is it still so expensive to get solar panels and other forms of clean energy sources up and working in our city? Why can't I opt for "green energy" from my electrical supplier?

If things were thriving here in Akron, would that also boost the Akron Beacon Journal's revenues? I don't pretend to be an economist, but I do know how I'd like to live, and that is in a friendly town with lots of folks working to make it better, and that includes a full service newspaper with a full time theatre critic!