I have never been a fan of those inane polls that they carry on news web sites, aside from all of the issues like the stupidity of the questions and even greater insanity of the answers they let you choose from. Today however, it took a strange twist.
From the story about National’s policy on ‘Life meaning Life’, Stuff ran a story about itself – or the comments that people left on it’s website, which in turn led to a front page poll, which created more copy for itself.
There are several issues here, apart from the gross nature of some of the comments;
First of all, this to me smacks of a media organisation basing a story about itself. If there were no comments open on the site, then there simply wouldn’t have been a story. Will they do a follow-up of the follow-up they created?
Second, they created a front page poll on the issue. I followed this thinking that there was some right wing politician bleating this retributionsist line about the place, but no, the poll was created because a few extremists (and some of the comments were disgusting) decided that this is what the story was about. So again they were reinforcing the story that they had created. Now comments and polls on online news organisations may be a snap shot of those who bother participating in these things, but they are not scientific polls, indeed they cater for the extreme of both sides of the debate, should they really be creating a story about themselves and extremists comments?
Third, the editorial control over these sites seems very lacking. We all know and love/loath DPF’s Kiwiblog, and sometimes the level of abuse and foul language in that place is almost unpalatable, but I would doubt very much if David would allow the likes of “A bullet to the head, put these guys down like the animals they are. A single bullet right between the eyes is a much cheaper option for those who think nothing of stabbing and shooting others to death”. Do the public really need that level of debate played out in the national media? When my kids are old enough to read online newspapers, I would not expect them to come across this rubbish on one of the two major online newspapers. Remember this isn’t some small political blog, this is one of the major players on the media stage, and with that level of unfettered commenting being allowed to stand, it seems what was gate-keeping of the news has become an orgy of self indulgence, by creating, reinforcing and/or condoning of comments and then creating a story on it’s own story.
There is no way I would create a story from the back of comments on this site, unless these were tip offs of some verifiable facts (the heart of journalism) about something that matters, rather than the ‘man in the pub told me…’ stuff that this is. Pathetic!
This for me was a new low in the online media landscape in NZ (irrespective of the content of the story). Is this any different from the metaphorical running through a theatre yelling ‘fire’ or up and down a beach screaming ‘tsunami’ – the media creating it’s own story?