A recent case of animal cruelty in western Illinois sparked an onslaught of angry social media comments on the websites for some news organizations. People called for all manner of retribution against the person accused of the crime. A television station felt compelled to post a piece urging people to show some restraint and not become an online lynch mob.
Shop Talk panelist Will Buss worked this summer for the newspaper that broke the story about the animal cruelty case. He said the paper has a small staff and it was difficult to monitor everything that was said about the story.
Buss said angry and hateful comments don’t contribute to a quality discussion. He hoped people will give some thought to a story before making a comment online.
Jasmine Crighton said some websites require visitors to take a short quiz about a story before they’re allowed to comment on it.
Crigton said we should feel fortunate to live in a country that allows free speech without fear of retribution from the government. But she cautioned that online comments could come back to jeopardize your prospects of finding or keeping a job.
Rich Egger commended the TV station (WQAD) for asking people to think before posting a comment. He said it would have been easy for the station to shut down its comments section for the story but instead it sided with the idea of free, open, and responsible speech.
Egger also urged people to read through online stories before commenting. He feels too many people look only at the headline before shooting from the lip.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.