There were many insights to be gained last Saturday as members of newsrooms from throughout Eagle Newspapers, Inc. converged on Hood River, Ore.
One of the many things I believe everyone can be mindful of is the adage shared by a peer regarding comments left on websites, Facebook pages and Twitter... "Don't feed the trolls."
Trolls are everywhere, not just on the internet. These are the people who like to be contrarian, inciting others with negative commentary contrary to the actual facts.
Our newspaper's opinion pages at one time had more than just a handful of letters to the editor. Not all were based on fact and not all were positive. However, they were welcome because the letters engaged others and reflected the thoughts of those around the community on one level or another.
My editor once told me we do not respond to the letters because our job is to report the events in the community, not to engage in a back-and-forth with our readers.
Now, we find comments on the website that are sometimes engaging and other times off-topic. Those comments can still be interesting.
As a news staff, we still do not engage in a back-and-forth with those leaving those comments. Other readers do.
Sometimes, the back-and-forth comments are off-topic and the "trolls" are being fed by them.
The same could be true of interacting in public, as well. We know people who have opinions that are off-base for one reason or another. Unfortunately, it is human nature to feel we must defend our own point of view regardless of whether or not the other person (or troll) really wants to know our standpoint.
By defending our own views and engaging in a back-and-forth, we are feeding them.
Another piece of insight that may or may not deter the trolls reading the newspaper's website came from five Eagle Newspapers' properties which will be soon going "behind a paywall."
Those newspapers will have online a headline and a sub-head or introductory lead to stories that are exclusive. Readers wishing to see more will have to subscribe either for a day or longer. If the readers are print subscribers, the readers will have free access to the website.
This, I found fascinating, because I agreed with John Baker of the Woodburn Independent, who said our work is worth something.
Everything our news staff writes is copyrighted and the internet provides those without a subscription free access.
A paywall, as a I see it, is the same as protecting our rights much like musicians protect theirs by requiring individuals to pay for downloaded MP3s.
Although, the Daily Sun News is not yet "going behind the paywall," I feel this is a good idea.
Then, the trolls would have to pay to incite others through rhetoric.