However politically unpopular they might prove to be–or however inconvenient–we print the facts as we uncover them. Rational people appreciate this. This is, after all, our mission.
Then there are those who lose their composure over press releases, assuming the Valley Voice endorses whatever statement has been issued. And there are those, too, who take umbrage at the facts themselves. Both are the type of online troll who jab threats, call us names, and vow to be done with us.
But they never do go away. If only they’d honor their promise!
It’s not about agreeing with us. It’s about being an impediment to discourse. Because these trolls tend to be follower types, bandwagoning pirates discourse. Worse is that some of them think they’re witty when the sad truth is half of them can’t even seem to spell properly.
And I was being kind to leave it at spelling. Grammar and punctuation are nothing so much as a minefield before their comprehension of English. All I mean to say is, if you’re going to troll someone, do it well. Otherwise you risk making a ridiculous spectacle of yourself.
We have, for instance, a defective next door neighbor whose medication clearly does not work. She used to leave her trash bin on the street to prevent people from parking in front of her house. One time, when we defied her, she scrawled a trolling message in the dirt on the side of our car. So I edited it. This made a spectacle of her, and she erased it.
What’s needed, then–in addition to a dictionary and some remedial language classes–is a minor education as to what all newspapers put forth. Forget the classifieds, the weather, crossword puzzles and horoscopes, the comics and all other flummery. I’m distilling it down to content. And it comes in four basic categories. In no particular order of importance, here they are:
First, there are the aforesaid press releases. Pressers. These come from all manner of sources, and newspapers the world over are literally slammed by a plethora of them. It simply isn’t possible to print each or even share them all online. Our approach is one of timeliness–sometimes, we get pressers just hours before an event–and what’s newsworthy. We try to be balanced, but that isn’t always possible as some sources are more loquacious than others. And on our side of the equation, we neither endorse nor alter pressers. About half of the time we actively disagree with them. But it’s a copy and paste situation. And if the presser in question appears in print, I can introduce you to its author every time. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Reports. Mr. Staff Reports.
Then there are letters to the editor. Call them op/eds or editorials–it’s up to you. But these, much like pressers, can’t in good conscience be altered, either. And–yes–I have repeatedly warned contributors that they must be their own language police. We run them, or not, according to space. And–again–about half of them I actively disagree with.
Next are columns. Currently–and historically, at least for us–there are two: my own, this one, “From the Publisher’s Desk” and my wife’s, “Political Fix.” These are also sometimes called editorials. But the main takeaway with a column is that it is an in-house opinion piece. Perhaps not of the entire staff, true enough, but of the author willing to stick his proverbial neck out.
Finally, we have news articles. Here, most newspapers–as do we–strive for unbiased accuracy. We’d be shooting ourselves in the mouth if we did not. Which is why it always amazes me that a goodly fraction, not liking the facts themselves, resorts to trolling. Our job is best done when just the facts are presented.
Which is where editing factors. Editing involves more than proofreading. You can do that on the side of a car. Believe it or not, sometimes it comes down to a single word. Someone will seize on that word and then troll us as biased. It’s a form of shooting the messenger.
And with the messenger dead, there can be no discourse.