Monday, June 7, 2010

Online politics: Even nastier than the real thing

As I am young, inexperienced, and very very new to the journalism world, I thought I would change up the blog by updating any readers on my observations and progress as I try to make a name for myself and gain new knowledge and perspective on politics.

A week on the blogging scene and all I have to say  This experience is teaching me so much about the world and the information age.  My first mission in e-journalism was to start posting some comments on the web, a suggestion I have taken from successful bloggers.

In a time when you can instantly view and comment on virtually any news story from the comfort of your own computer, people sure seem to have a lot to say.  However, the main thing that I have learned is that online, you only have your logic in writing to rely on, and people are going to try and attack you with political buzz words and zingers.  It was definitely an unpleasant surprise the first time this happened to me.  Confidence is key in these situations, as anything you write online is subject to be ripped apart by opponents, sitting at their own computers, itching for an argument.  While it sounds like a bad place for an amateur to find herself, I was surprised at what I learned from my time in the comment section.  I have encountered and hashed it out with ruthless commentators on news sites like the Sacramento Bee and CNN, and rather than being humbled by the constant smackdowns of my posts by others, I learned that many of these people are actually quite ignorant and are only trying to be witty in order to discourage opponents from posting anything else, and they are defeatable.  

I decided my best bet for good observation would be to comment on marijuana-related stories since I'm involved with the issue and am able to argue and back up my points on the subject.  I soon realized that people were going to try and fight me on the issue.  Excited that I had rebuttals to these opponents, I got a little ahead of myself and started making some irrelevant claims.  This is when the predators attacked!  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that someone had targeted my post for a harsh reply--talk about a bruise to the ego.  But upon reading the reply I was more offended by the personal attacks to my credibility and logic than the commentary made; the poster's political claims were far-fetched, invalid, and without even a source to cite.  There was still the issue of the personal humiliation to deal with, however.  I was able to stand up for myself, repair the damage I had already done to my arguments, and hit the close button on my browser tab just in time.  Classy.

Now I have a clear voice on the web when I comment on stories, and have even started receiving recommendations on my posts from other users.  My mantra for online argument is: "Knowledge is power."  If you're not an expert on an  issue, don't pretend to be.  People WILL humiliate you publicly.  If you do have relevant knowledge, keep it organized and present it in an easy-to-understand context so readers who come across your comment will be interested.  Lastly, be assertive, NOT aggressive.  Witty comebacks only work once in a while, and tactfulness in journalism never goes out of style.  

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