Tag Archives: Jessica DaSilva

Why everyone should be ashamed of the infamous comment thread

If you haven’t yet read the comment thread on a recent entry by Tampa Tribune intern Jessica DaSilva, go do it now. There’s no better example of the emotionally charged internal battle that the newspaper industry is facing.

Seeing as I already expressed admiration for DaSilva’s blogging way before she suddenly became a celebrity, I’d certainly jump to DaSilva’s defense. She not only had the right to say what she did, she ought to be commended for being passionate enough to say it. We need passionate reformers more than anything.

But the comment thread is disheartening in more ways than I can count. Most obviously, those who didn’t like the entry went way overboard with the villainization, and I can only hope Jessica has learned that idiotic statements don’t mean a thing when you’re standing on solid ground.

Yet I find myself equally disturbed by the reaction on what you could call “my side,” the reformers seeking the best future for journalism. It was a blanket, unthinking defense of one of our own, no one seeming to acknowledge the blatantly obvious fact that the post was very much insensitive to those who lost their jobs. I haven’t heard a direct argument yet as to why those people’s feelings aren’t worthy of attention, or why it couldn’t have been made clearer that she understood the gravity of those losses. That part was missing from an otherwise fantastic post, and I can understand why its absence led to the reaction it got.

As it turns out, “my side” is every bit as guilty of bunkering itself off as the other side. We use labels like “curmudgeons” and “reactionaries” while not doing much to respectfully engage their arguments. Any time those kind of labels come into play, it’s a pretty clear signal to me that not much discussion is going to happen with the people who need to participate the most.

Jessica’s post was outstanding yet imperfect, which is no great offense since most everything is imperfect. I hope she’s holding her head as high as she deserves, because the point she was trying to make about the need for a plan was a good one.

The far greater problem is the distance between the people who read her post, and how few people are working to peacefully bridge the gap. And that includes “my side” with all of its counterproductive name-calling.

John Zhu had a great comment on an entry by Hilary Lehman:

The comments on Jessica’s blog show a definite split along age lines, with veterans mostly taking issue with her fawning over an editor who just laid off people and younger journalists mostly dismissing those criticisms as coming from dinosaurs despite not knowing any of the people who offered those criticisms. What’s more disturbing is that despite having almost 100 comments as of now, there is almost no substantive discussion of the actual criticisms. Instead of the two sides reaching across the battle line to discuss their viewpoints, they are pretty much just deepening the line in the sand, bunkering down in their respective corners, and trading verbal barbs. From that perspective, it seems that the “dinosaurs” and the “naive kids” are more alike than either would admit.

Unfortunately, that’s preceded by more ageism as someone else makes wild generalizations about twenty-somethings. Let’s not make age another battleground that we really don’t need.

Where are all the college bloggers?

I was delighted to find Jessica DaSilva’s blog (via Pat Thornton). Jessica, a journalism student at the University of Florida, had a recent entry about her internship at the Tampa Tribune that took me back to the good old days of unadulterated enthusiasm.

Reading through Jessica’s blog shows you don’t have to be an expert with years of experience to have something valuable to offer.

So why aren’t more students blogging? I suspect it’s because, all over the country, students are still being taught to have a fear of blogging, bloggers and blogs.

I talked to a group of students at Lebanon Valley College this spring about blogging, and the professor challenged each of the students to start their own blog.

Some of the results: Popcorn Nation, A Mess of Youthful Innocence, PA Press Watch, Over the Counter, Not Just Another Indie Hipster, Today’s Menu.

Some of them are really impressive offerings. PA Press Watch was a great read in the Pennsylvania primaries, as he dissected how different newspapers covered everything. Popcorn Nation and Not Just Another Indie Hipster have been embedding videos and linking with the best of them. Over the Counter and Today’s Menu have given interesting looks at working in a pharmacy and restaurant, respectively.

These are difficult subjects to maintain blogs on, but they need not be professional. What’s really cool about the project is that the students are beginning to understand the culture of blogging. You see them leaving comments on each other’s entries. You see them linking to each other, or leaving comments in other blogs.

These students, once they find themselves at a news organization, will be much better suited to starting a blog on their beat. Having maintained a blog while in college was one of my big selling points in being hired for my current reporting job.

So let me ask: Do you know of any other students blogging about journalism, like Jessica DaSilva? If you are one, please make sure to let me know you exist.

UPDATE (12:22 p.m.): Jessica makes two great points in the comment thread:

And I agree that more students should be blogging. I’ve noticed that in keeping up my blog, it forces me to keep abreast on my news to ensure I know what I’m talking about.

It’s also teaching me how to combine my own personal flair with what I know. Later, when I have a beat to blog about, I feel like it’ll help me connect with readers so they know I’m not a robot.