Letters

Touting ‘new journalism’ online
       Regarding your “Stick to the Facts” column (Editor's Desk, March 20), I'm sorry you really haven't accepted the full communications revolution that is evolving via the Internet.
       You have to accept the fact that ordinary citizens, if they are given a place to “publish” their words via the Internet, will do so. It is called freedom of speech - electronic speech. Their postings will range from sharing Aunt Minnie's recipe to rants and raves about their neighbors, developers, local government or media itself.
       As you well know, large-city newspapers are trying, in a variety of ways, to integrate the Internet. They know they have to change with the times to attract readers, online or off, who will read and react to their ads. They don't know what they are doing yet, but they are trying things.
       I agree, “citizen journalism” is not traditional journalism as you have known it. But it's a new form of public communications. It's people talking to each other - one to many, and many to one. And like all people talking to each other, whether on the phone, by private letter or on a soap box in the park, they do not stick just to the “facts.” They express opinions. They relate rumors. But for every misstatement of “fact” online there is another citizen - not just an editor - to correct it publicly. Online, so-called “citizen journalism” is a lot more self-correcting than you admit.
       The daily's biggest oversight is that it does not proactively moderate the online “conversations.” In fact no blog is worth reading unless there is someone with the gavel, not censoring or disputing, but stimulating comment, making the digital conversations civil and more helpful to all, not just “interesting.” As a publisher once told me, “It's the New England Town Hall over an electronic back fence in Colorado.”
       New forms of Electronic Democracy and public communications are emerging. Its also becoming a form of the “new journalism.” You don't have anything to worry about with the print Pioneer. There is plenty of room for both.

Dave Hughes


       Editor’s note: Your points are well taken, Dave, but I think you missed mine. Electronic town-hallers can vent about sensitive subjects all they want online, “self-correcting” as they go. But when the daily paper prints such unsubstantiated and/or biased commentaries, giving them the appearance of real news stories, that’s when people can get hurt, confused or wrongly riled. And that’s what I object to.