Old-media for trolls

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On rare occasions when I happen to pick up a copy of Edmonton’s newspaper of record, the Edmonton Journal, I frequently stumble upon the “Venting” section. It’s a place where people can share their views on a host of topics in short snippets — essentially the newspaper equivalent of Twitter. But there are several key differences.

First off, Venting is completely anonymous. And for a fairly credible media organization, I don’t think keeping an anonymous sniping section in their newspaper drives the credibility meter up into the stratosphere.

Second, it’s not quite like Twitter. I’d argue that while most of the people I follow on Twitter make nice (generally), Venting is a place for trolls. If people on Twitter act like dinks, there’s a real-time community there to put them in their place. A lot of people on Twitter also choose to identify who they are (like me), though not all people do this. There’s no mechanism in Venting to say to someone, “Hey, Ted from Fort Saskatchewan, who hates all people less than 5’4″ tall, that’s extremely dumb what you just said,” or “Wow, Steven from Holyrood, the level of qualified ignorance you just conveyed really makes me worry for future generations of the human race.”

In a way, though, having a Venting section is a somewhat democratic thing to do: open up the Journal’s pages to those not eloquent enough to collect their thoughts and write a proper letter to the editor. Give anonymous douchebags too cowardly to share their views and attach their name to them a street-corner soapbox from which to share their asinine vitriolic rants.

I’m sorry, but Venting is a tremendous waste of ink. It adds exactly no value to the Journal, and in fact takes it down a notch when you compare that (albeit small) section to the Journal’s other hallowed pages. Venting reads like the Edmonton Sun’s letters section: nasty, brutish and short.

I’d be happy to see the newspaper do away with Venting. Save that space for more local content, and let the trolls have at ‘er in the online comments section of the newspaper. Who knows, maybe a troll or two will amass enough brain matter (by proxy, of course) to write a proper letter to the editor denouncing local drivers and their inability to use turn signals; or the fact that smokers are, like, totally being marginalized and shit.

But what do I know? I guess I’m just venting.

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9 Responses to “Old-media for trolls”

  1. Jeff
    August 14, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    You assume, by asking to replace Venting, that they have staff ready to cover local news. I suspect it would end up being another international story from Reuters.

    What do you think of their “good news” page and their opposite-of-venting column where people can laud stuff?

  2. Shannon
    August 14, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    I actually like the venting section for the exact reasons you cite: I like that it’s a cross section of sometimes really dumb people expressing themselves. Sometimes, people are quite insightful and intelligent. Other times, not so much. But, it’s a short section, it allows people to say what they want and to entertain the rest of us with their pithy comments. Keep the venting section!

  3. Adam Snider
    August 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Maybe they’re just doing it for the lulz. 😉

  4. Walter Schwabe
    August 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    I sort of find the venting section, (when I actually read the paper) entertaining to some degree. How do those editors stay so snappy? Actually, if people didn’t vent, we may all go nuts. Half the battle sometimes is just having a outlet, this being the one for non-bloggers I suspect. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the true nut jobs who go out of their way just to be jerks…nice post Mr. Fuel.

  5. bingofuel
    August 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    I don’t deny it can be entertaining, but I think considered in the context of the rest of the paper, it really is a black mark. I mean, this isn’t a small community newsletter — it’s the de facto paper of record in Edmonton! I just don’t think the pages of the Edmonton Journal are the place for those

  6. Kiri
    August 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    I love the Venting section. I have compared it to twitter, though it is more edited. I get the feeling that it’s a more broad representation of the opinions of Edmontonians that what is found in the Gen Y heavy twitter medium. I think it has some value as a barometer of the frustration of the masses – it’s an interesting sociological study and I’d be disappointed to see it go.

  7. Lisa
    August 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    I like reading Venting, because even though I’m not yet 30 years old, I am a grumpy old woman at heart. But yes, I do agree that sometimes some people take it a bit to far.

    I like the ‘Good News’ one too because it gives my internal grumpy old woman proof that this city isn’t actually a craphole like some people say. I think we need more ‘Good News’ and less ‘Venting’.

    And did you know Todd Babiak is moving to France?! So have we lost him too?