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.