Getting insulted online

By Steve Outing

My latest Editor & Publisher Online column, published this week, was a bit out of the ordinary for me. Instead of sticking to online media trends and news as I usually do, I did an opinion piece about climate change and how the newspaper industry fails to use its power to influence positive behavior because of a tendency of editors and publishers to refrain from declaring that the “debate” over global warming is essentially over (by taking too seriously the increasingly irrelevant skeptics). Newspapers could, for the public good, I suggested, consider taking an advocacy approach and encouraging behavior change by people.

I guessed I’d piss off some people with that, and indeed it appears I have. A quick blog search on my name reveals that I’m getting called a bunch of nasty names. (“What rock did this guy crawl out from under…,” etc.)

My column hasn’t generated vitriol like this in a while. I guess I’ve been too bland of late, till now. :) Oh, well, if it gets some people thinking about the issue of global warming and the press’ role, then that’s great — and I’ll take my lumps from the blogosphere.

One thing about the arrows coming my way, though, bugs me. Editor & Publisher is often brought up, as though E&P (the premier trade publication of the newspaper industry) endorses what I wrote. Hey, this was my opinion, not theirs. E&P was nice enough to not reject my column rant, but the words of a freelance columnist have no bearing on the policy of the magazine. It’s like the letters to the editor you see constantly complaining about some right- or left-wing column that was printed in a newspaper — “How could you publish that trash?! Cancel my subscription!” — when the paper routinely publishes various points of view.

Author: Steve Outing Media futurist | Digital-media/news innovator | Journalist | Online-news pioneer | Consultant | Blogger | Writer | Researcher | Author | Speaker | Educator

18 Responses to "Getting insulted online"

  1. Howard Owens
    Howard Owens 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve, while you doing one piece that touches on politics is one thing … perfectly legitimate subject. What tarnishes E&P is Greg Mitchell's constant partisan drumbeating. Every issue, another left-leaning column about Iraq. It's tiresome. And it reflects poorly on journalism to have the editor of our leading trade pub constantly pushing a partisan agenda. So maybe you're getting some of that backlash.

  2. Howard Owens
    Howard Owens 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve, while you doing one piece that touches on politics is one thing … perfectly legitimate subject. What tarnishes E&P is Greg Mitchell’s constant partisan drumbeating. Every issue, another left-leaning column about Iraq. It’s tiresome. And it reflects poorly on journalism to have the editor of our leading trade pub constantly pushing a partisan agenda. So maybe you’re getting some of that backlash.

  3. Larry
    Larry 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve: Good points, especially this one, on objectivity, “The problem with that kind of coverage is that it doesn’t permit journalists to find the truth in an issue…” I think one of the struggles of the press, and journalists, is their forgotten purpose to “find the truth in an issue” and share that truth. There is a difference between “”truth” and “partisanship.” But very quickly, when truth is spoken, even with solid fact, relevant reference, research and expert opinion, comes the attack of the “partisan” label from those to whom truth is a threat. This is not new … but does require columns expressing ideas like your current viewpoint to remind those of us in the media of the obligation to share truth when truth is found, even in the face of fear of the “partisan” label, nasty names, or worse.

  4. Larry
    Larry 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve: Good points, especially this one, on objectivity, "The problem with that kind of coverage is that it doesn't permit journalists to find the truth in an issue…" I think one of the struggles of the press, and journalists, is their forgotten purpose to "find the truth in an issue" and share that truth. There is a difference between ""truth" and "partisanship." But very quickly, when truth is spoken, even with solid fact, relevant reference, research and expert opinion, comes the attack of the "partisan" label from those to whom truth is a threat. This is not new … but does require columns expressing ideas like your current viewpoint to remind those of us in the media of the obligation to share truth when truth is found, even in the face of fear of the "partisan" label, nasty names, or worse.

  5. Christopher Ryan
    Christopher Ryan 7 years ago .Reply

    The problem may be the phrase “advocacy”, which does raise lots of justified concerns. I’d love to see newspapers evaluate the facts behind the various positions on major issues, instead of ‘balanced’ coverage that gives equal weight to the ‘he-said, she-said’ positions. That would accomplish much of what Steve wants, in the case of global warming — not to mention serving the public. I think it’s very clear by now that the warming-deniers are, well, wrong (to put it politely). Newspapers shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

  6. Christopher Ryan
    Christopher Ryan 7 years ago .Reply

    The problem may be the phrase "advocacy", which does raise lots of justified concerns. I'd love to see newspapers evaluate the facts behind the various positions on major issues, instead of 'balanced' coverage that gives equal weight to the 'he-said, she-said' positions. That would accomplish much of what Steve wants, in the case of global warming — not to mention serving the public. I think it's very clear by now that the warming-deniers are, well, wrong (to put it politely). Newspapers shouldn't be afraid to say so.

  7. Nick
    Nick 7 years ago .Reply

    Journalists, no matter how hard they try, will be labeled too liberal or too conservative by one group or another. The problem with that is then it makes our community afraid to tackle testy issues. Conservative-leaning groups have done an excellent job over the past 30 years labeling anything that comes from the news media (or the news media itself) as "liberal," even if it is factual. It's a fallacy in debate — calling something liberal or conservative without actually addressing the factual problems (if there are any.)

  8. Nick
    Nick 7 years ago .Reply

    Journalists, no matter how hard they try, will be labeled too liberal or too conservative by one group or another. The problem with that is then it makes our community afraid to tackle testy issues. Conservative-leaning groups have done an excellent job over the past 30 years labeling anything that comes from the news media (or the news media itself) as “liberal,” even if it is factual. It’s a fallacy in debate — calling something liberal or conservative without actually addressing the factual problems (if there are any.)

  9. [...] I don’t intend to turn my blog into a venue for debating political issues. (I do wonder why the debate over human influence of climate change has become a political issue; it should be a scientific one, leaving out the absurdity of people trying to convince us that the climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.) I’ll stick mostly to where I have expertise, which is new media. But I do want to express one (I hope last) thought to follow up my previous blog item. [...]

  10. Amy Gahran
    Amy Gahran 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve, this is very interesting to me. Among other things I’m a longtime environment/energy journalist and I’m very active in the Society of Environmental Journalists.

    Many journalists on the environment beat face a constant battle in and out of the newsroom — namely, they’re often accused of bias or partisanship *simply for being on the environment beat.* That wears on them, and some of them get pretty defensive about it — maybe even reactionary. In other cases, editors are the ones who fear accusations of bias and require or insert the “he said, she said” approach to climate coverage.

    That is changing at some news organizations, however. It’s important not to paint all mainstream climate coverage with the same broad brush. It really depends on the people and news organizations involved.

    SEJ’s conference is coming up next week in Stanford. I’m running the unofficial conference blog (http://sej2007.com). I just linkblogged your E&P column, but I’ll also write up a post on it tomorrow (Friday — wow, no, that’s today, I’m up late!)

    I encourage journalists and others interested in this issue to check out the conference blog over the coming weeks. I and the other volunteer contributors will be posting about the discussion of this issue.

    Thanks

    Amy Gahran

  11. Amy Gahran
    Amy Gahran 7 years ago .Reply

    Steve, this is very interesting to me. Among other things I'm a longtime environment/energy journalist and I'm very active in the Society of Environmental Journalists. Many journalists on the environment beat face a constant battle in and out of the newsroom — namely, they're often accused of bias or partisanship *simply for being on the environment beat.* That wears on them, and some of them get pretty defensive about it — maybe even reactionary. In other cases, editors are the ones who fear accusations of bias and require or insert the "he said, she said" approach to climate coverage. That is changing at some news organizations, however. It's important not to paint all mainstream climate coverage with the same broad brush. It really depends on the people and news organizations involved. SEJ's conference is coming up next week in Stanford. I'm running the unofficial conference blog (http://sej2007.com). I just linkblogged your E&P column, but I'll also write up a post on it tomorrow (Friday — wow, no, that's today, I'm up late!) I encourage journalists and others interested in this issue to check out the conference blog over the coming weeks. I and the other volunteer contributors will be posting about the discussion of this issue. Thanks Amy Gahran

  12. Mindy McAdams
    Mindy McAdams 7 years ago .Reply

    I find it interesting that E&P still does not allow comments to be posted directly on your columns, Steve. Some interesting discussions might arise there if it were a two-way conversation. It seems unwieldy to discuss the column here, on another site, instead of over there, where the controversial words appear.

  13. Mindy McAdams
    Mindy McAdams 7 years ago .Reply

    I find it interesting that E&P still does not allow comments to be posted directly on your columns, Steve. Some interesting discussions might arise there if it were a two-way conversation. It seems unwieldy to discuss the column here, on another site, instead of over there, where the controversial words appear.

  14. Steve
    Steve 7 years ago .Reply

    Mindy: I've asked for this many times over the years, and have always been told it's a CMS issue. I too wish that comments were possible on the column itself. As a freelancer for E&P, I don't have any control over such things.

  15. Steve
    Steve 7 years ago .Reply

    Mindy: I’ve asked for this many times over the years, and have always been told it’s a CMS issue. I too wish that comments were possible on the column itself. As a freelancer for E&P, I don’t have any control over such things.

  16. Mindy McAdams
    Mindy McAdams 7 years ago .Reply

    I didn't mean to put it on you, Steve. To me it reflects the print bias of E&P — they don't want to open up the conversation. I know you would, if it were up to you.

  17. Mindy McAdams
    Mindy McAdams 7 years ago .Reply

    I didn’t mean to put it on you, Steve. To me it reflects the print bias of E&P — they don’t want to open up the conversation. I know you would, if it were up to you.

  18. Howard Owens
    Howard Owens 6 years ago .Reply

    we\'re doing it … check out a video on rrstar.com.

    Eventually, this is how it will work on all of our sites.

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