For us newspaper folks, we sometimes long for the good old days. Yes, things have changed in this modern world and with it our business model and practices.
Nostalgia smacked us in the face this week when we posted coverage of school board budget meetings on Facebook. Back in the good old days when someone would read a newspaper article they would actually read it — headline, first graph and then the whole body of the story. Oftentimes the reader might form an opinion about the news, maybe head uptown to talk to some friends about it, make a call and do a little more homework on the subject. Then the spectacular would occur — after gaining as much knowledge as possible, he or she would sit down, take pen to paper and express his or her opinion in a letter to the editor.
We long for this engagement of yesteryear. But nowadays, people want to see news articles on social media. There, some don’t stop to read but a headline, or perhaps a comment on the feed, before spouting off. The response is immediate and often uninformed. The platform is used to unfairly attack others without much information about the topic, say something as complex as a school budget.
It’s a shame, isn’t it? In seeking an honest exchange of opinions and ideas on social media, we sometimes find the worst comes out in people. In some cases, it provides a medium to showcase a new thought or provide more information. Other times, it turns into a discourse that isn’t too pleasing. This is the double-edged sword that is social media.
Should we shut down our Facebook account because elected officials who are good people are being criticized? No. While immediate and sometimes uninformed opinions are expressed on social media, this is what people in our community are thinking. Is it in our best interest to turn a blind eye to it?
We applaud those community leaders who had thick enough skin to comment on the Newton Daily News Facebook posts this week — those who asked questions or pointed out misinformation or encouraged attendance at open meetings. To those who hid behind their private accounts or support pages in an attempt to explain away the negative comments, we think you fell short. The audience you’re wanting to reach is engaging on our social media page and are among the many who might benefit from more communication from district leadership.
Our role as a newspaper won’t change, even though we sometimes long for the good old days. We’ll continue to give the highlights from hours of sparsely attended budget workshops we cover this time of year. The expression of opinions will be encouraged as will the debate about how our taxpayer dollars should best be spent. For others, it might be a good time to write an old-fashioned letter to the editor.