Fair Comment?

By Duncan Anderson and Saša Lakić

Public feedback is an essential part of journalism. Reporters may not answer the majority of unsolicited commentary they receive from readers and viewers, but they definitely take notice of it. Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have sped up that relationship like little else in history — and every now and then it can lead to a good and important story. The immediacy that social media offers has also turbo-charged haters and trolls. 

We asked five Vancouver reporters about their experiences with the general audience. This is what they said:

Stephanie Ip

Digital Reporter, Postmedia

You just kinda have to figure out how to determine that in your own experience and how much you want to engage. And if you do want to engage, you need to have really thick skin. 

That kind of gets ratcheted up a whole notch if you are a reporter of colour.

When you’re a [person of colour] they also come after you with race-related things as well, which is a little bit frustrating. But at the same time, that’s kind of the reality that we work in. I let it get to me when I was younger. You realize very quickly when you start working there’s not a whole lot you can do with it… this is the way the world is. The best that I can do is control how I respond to it and how I can channel that into a healthy discussion, even if it means not responding directly to that person. 

But, I hit a wall recently where I just stopped caring. If I ignore it and push it under the bed, rug, people aren’t made aware. And when they hear about it, they’re so surprised… shocked. For a lot of people, this is the reality, so I think I am at this point where I decided that nope, it’s my duty to point it out when it happens and for people to see this is happening and see that this is something we need to be vigilant about, to watch out for. 

Ted Field

Assignment editor, producer

Back in the day, you’d be able to get someone immediately on the phone to get the information and thank them very much, or even a letter. You would get so many releases through the mail, but you might not necessarily respond to them. While now, online, people almost expect an immediate response to whatever information they have and what you’re going to do with it.

Keith Baldrey

Provincial Affairs Reporter, Global B.C.

The positive impact I get is when I go the extra distance and show someone what’s going on behind the scenes. I remember in the summer [of 2017] the day of the confidence vote that saw the Liberals fall, there was a young girl, who sat on the front lawn. After we went over and introduced ourselves, it turned out she was just fascinated by politics and the media. So, I suggested I take her family on a tour of the B.C. legislature the next day. She, her brother and her mom were ecstatic. Got them into the cabinet room, the Premier’s office, and they were just blown away. They sent me a very long letter about two weeks later about what a fantastic time they had and that it was a life-changing experience for them. In terms of impact, that is a positive bit of feedback. The negative stuff, I just let it fly.

Amy Judd

Online Assignment Desk and Online Producer, Global B.C.

If it’s nasty and it’s not helpful, generally, I don’t even acknowledge that they’ve sent it. And in some cases we just pull [the comments] off; they’re just trolls.

Being on TV, it’s always about my appearance. I once forgot to pat my hair down and somebody tweeted a screenshot of the TV and said, ‘The least you could do was brush your hair.’ And I just thought, ‘You would never send that to a man, you just wouldn’t.’

At the beginning, it’s really hard not to. But you cannot pay attention to it. You just have to keep doing the good work that you’re doing, and keep pushing forward and putting out good stories.

Nathan Caddell

Writer, B.C. Business, Georgia Straight

I find that people who use Twitter are more inclined to go after you. It won’t be the same for Facebook at all. There will be more mentioning of you and bringing you into the conversation on Twitter, whereas on Facebook, they will say what they wanna say without actually @-ing you.

Having people have to log onto Facebook is huge — that should definitely happen. There should definitely be no anonymous commentators. I think keeping it there, I’d agree with that

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