During a particularly raucous weekend I recall a frantic call from editorial staff. It happens in this line of work.
An inflammatory post ignited our social media channels. They were on fire. It was ugly and unkind. When quizzed by staff, obviously rattled by the extent and nature of accusations, “how would we handle it?” I said we would look after it Monday. Pressed again for a reaction I remember telling one soul in the mix that day not to worry. Somewhat taken aback at that degree of calm she wondered aloud how do you do that? Four words followed: “I know who I am.”
A measure of comfort was passed along when I added, I knew who she was too. Sometimes people just need to be still and reflect.
Unfortunately the conscious decision to breathe and ponder a point has taken a backseat in recent times. Social media platforms, despite their novel initial purposes have now been weaponized to amplify hate and sow division. Misinformation flows with ease and the digital behemoths feeding it through to susceptible consumers as identified by their online habits, capitalize on every click and share. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.
The outcome of immersing oneself in this type of eco-system is no surprise. A day at the rage farm hardly makes for a happy person. What is hard to understand is why anyone would subject themselves to that, let alone succumb to becoming puppets of mistruth.
We do however live in confusing times of immense change.
Publishing a community newspaper has never been more difficult. Culture wars that have sped up in recent years, expectations from a more diverse, growing community, and the financial implications that go along with delivering a newspaper free of charge, factor into these challenges.
Within the Advertiser great effort is made to separate news from opinion. From time to time misplaced frustration shows up when the viewpoints of people within an article may not square with a reader’s world view. Baseless claims of bias or questions of journalistic judgment, without a cogent argument to follow, are just theatrics and a cheap way of sounding important.
The culture wars have raged for some time now. One thing we have tried to do at the Advertiser is ensure opportunity exists for divergent opinions. That too earns scorn, but is part of the bargain of living in a free country. It is a trust we have had with our readers for decades, the only caveat being it cannot promote intolerance, pass along falsehoods as fact or demean others. Informed opinion matters.
We recognize each issue of this publication will ultimately form part of the history in Wellington County. Some day, long after this publisher has retired, an historian like Steve Thorning or a sociologist will piece together from news and views, what Wellington was and is. We have faith it will be favourable.
How people interact, how they interpret the events around them, indeed how they react to change, adds to the challenge of finding personal peace in an evolving world.
Managing conflict is never easy, but people have a choice.