Following a spate of unpleasant incidents in their online newspaper, the BFP is to set up a Bullying Helpline. Comments are not actively moderated on the local newspaper, which means that some unpleasant individuals are free to abuse whoever has caught their eye on the days that they got out of the wrong side of bed. As many of these characters are not very bright and unable to learn from their mistakes, this can often be as many as seven days a week. They fall into two categories: those that like to be offensive about certain sections of the community and those that prefer to pick on individuals for a more targeted approach.
The Editor says: “We have to rely on the good sense of the public, and we respond to any complaints we receive.”
“We react to reader complaints – and we then base our decisions on our T&Cs.”
“There is a clear line of abuse that shouldn’t be crossed. I bet all of you who post on here know exactly where that line is”.
“There’s no problem with honestly criticising someone or something; but there is an issue when it descends to vicious name-calling, open abuse and defamation.”
Unfortunately, it rapidly became clear that approach wasn’t working. As no-one could agree what was “vicious”, “abuse” or how to define “defamation”, the comments section descended into unseemly squabbling and outright lies in an attempt to shout the loudest. After several lengthy dissertations it became clear that the Editor had in fact left the building and couldn’t even be found in his usual spot on Twitter telling awful jokes and discussing sport.
It became clear that one group of posters were more fortunate than others. Those who were insensitive to other peoples’ feelings are less likely to suffer as they have no idea of the harm they are causing and have an unwavering conviction that they are in the right.
In an attempt to salvage the situation, the Editor contacted his staff from his remote hideaway location. Student journalists on work placements during their summer breaks have been instructed to set up the Bullying Helpline. Anyone who feels they have been abused or bullied, or know someone that they think has, can now ring the Bucks Free Press offices and talk to an untrained counsellor.
A spokesman says “It’s a win win situation”. Anyone with an axe to grind can still comment online without fear of censure. This will upset a lot of people and create a lot of online traffic for us and believe me, local newspapers are struggling to stay afloat at the moment. This sort of controversy is very good for us and it keeps the advertisers very happy. Meanwhile, anyone who is upset and needs to complain can rest assured that we are listening. Well, the unpaid staff will be listening. It is an excellent opportunity for them and gives them insight into the moral dilemma created by giving everyone freedom of speech. Meanwhile, our journalists are free to get on with the job in hand. Whatever that is.”