In the dog-eat-dog arena the world of social media has become, it's become necessary for legitimate "traditional" media outlets to separate themselves from the fray of misinformation, hysteria, satirical memes, and outright lies. And it's increasingly difficult to make that distinction.
The Daily Press is a small community newspaper, and doesn't have a team dedicated to social media. We do what we can, but too often, "trolls" - some bots or fake accounts, but others real people who like to stir the pot - attach links to posts with discredited information. Or they make outrageous claims without providing supporting evidence.
A newspaper's social media account is not a standalone platform. Its purpose is to entice readers to websites, where stories, features, photos, sports coverage, videos, etc. are available. Print readers who make the foray into the digital world are often surprised by the sheer volume of information on websites - which, as opposed to print editions, have an infinite "newshole."
But although errors and inaccuracies do slip through the cracks, readers can count on information on newspaper websites to be fact-checked, objective and true. That's not the case for free-for-all platforms - and it's impossible for smaller newspapers to "police" their sites without full-time staff dedicated to sniffing out the culprits. Our resources must be devoted to gathering, compiling and presenting information readers want and deserve.
TDP has a well-developed participation policy for Facebook, which is on our timeline's homepage. Newspapers rely mainly on readers or "followers" to let them know when someone crosses the line. Still, the posting policy is often violated, and with the number of followers approaching 30,200 in TDP's case, it's no wonder we can't catch everything. Newspapers want followers to engage in lively discussions and give opinions in an environment wherein they won't feel threatened, disparaged, or slandered. When participants are attacked mercilessly, the victims should notify our staff through private message, and we'll tend to it.
But while we encourage dialogue and the free expression of viewpoints, newspapers have community standards. Those rules do not constitute "censorship," which in this context is understood as government interference in the airing, printing or posting of material. Every newspaper has a right - and a responsibility - to set standards, and those should be rooted in truth and civility. Because TDP is a family-oriented newspaper, our filter is set to the highest level, and the algorithm ensures curse words or those displaying bigotry are automatically hidden. We do not tolerate hate speech that targets anyone based on race, religion, gender, occupation, sexual orientation or other traits. Though criticism is fine, we frown upon unjustified personal attacks on individuals, organizations and businesses (including our own).
We want participants to speak in their own voices, so in response to reader surveys, we're making an effort to remove gifs, memes, and links to websites or social media outlets with material that is offensive, distracting to our mission, or cannot be readily verified. Links to sites that demonstrate bias - for the left or the right - will be removed. And unless in response to a forum or our making, we don't allow campaigning for candidates. Repeat offenders will be banned, because their purpose is not to engage in constructive and honest discussions, but to cause trouble and hurt others.
As always, we appreciate the readers and social media followers who respect our parameters - and we hope those who don't will be reported by decent folks who are more interested in the news than in tearing apart our community.