13 January 2012

"...people inclined to comment from the anonymity of a keyboard tend to have opinions they're ashamed of expressing as real face-to-face people."

I have three new media-related pet peeves. I thought I’d share them with you, because what’s the point of having a blog if I don’t use it to force my opinions upon the world?

The first is the weather. Or rather, the way the weather is reported as if it’s never happened before. Snow in Atlantic Canada! Snow in Russia and Alaska! Deep Freeze in the Prairies! Will wonders never cease? There’s a reason most awkward elevator small talk is about the weather: it’s one of the few things otherwise disparate people have in common. We all see, think about, and are affected by the weather every single day. I mean, the snowmageddon thing in Alaska is cool, but does every single snowfall in every major population center have to be a separate news story? I mean, I live here and I don’t care that we’re bracing for a storm. It’s WINTER it’s going to SNOW and RAIN. That’s what “winter” means here. If it was, say, July and we were bracing for snow that would be something different. If it was February and Alaska was going through a humidexmageddon, that would be a story. But the weather doing what it’s supposed to do when it’s supposed to do it is just assumed. It does not require constant coverage. 

Holy carp! Snow at high elevations! The people need to know!

My second pet peeve is what I consider to be a lazy journalistic practice. It’s when reporters use quotes from internet comment sections in their stories. Like, if the story is about a piece that was originally reported in the NY Times, and the journalist quotes comments from that webpage in their story: “T&AalltheWAY666 disagreed with the study’s finding….”  Every time I see some anonymous reader comment in an otherwise legitimate news story, it just strikes me as lazy and dangerous. I understand this is a way to report on what the "average" person thinks, but it gives a voice to all those crazy whackjobs who write comments on the internet news sites. I asked my favourite journalist about this and here's what she said:
“I agree it's lazy. Plus, people inclined to comment from the anonymity of a keyboard tend to have opinions they're ashamed of expressing as real face-to-face people. I think giving them disproportionate space hastens the decline of our civilization. And I'm not being hyperbolic — I really believe that. 
That said, reporters are under time pressure, and people on the street are suspicious of talking to reporters (I know – I've done those man-on-the-street surveys) so it takes time to sweet-talk them and put them at ease. 
Still, I think it's better to do without average-person comment than to take it from posts. Unless it's a story to show how idiotic people can be! 
Love, Mom”

Finally, I think we need stricter criteria for calling a video “viral,” because I’m sick of hearing about them and the current definition seems to be "any video people who write about viral videos have seen," regardless of the actual number of views. The last story I saw about a viral video said the video had ~300,000 views. That’s a paltry .004% of the world’s population. Even if we limit that to the number of people who have internet access (2 billion), it’s still only ~.02%. I think at least 10% of the people on the internet need to have seen something before it’s called “viral” and before news stories are devoted to it. 

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