Seers of new-age journalism preach that writers should want to include readers in the conversation. News is a two-way street. Journalism’s mighty white tower of decades past is, and should be, replaced with a picnic-style commune with our esteemed audiences.
Not Jeff Pearlman.
The SI columnist hunted down a few readers that posted harsh, anonymous comments on his column. This wasn’t a scathing criticism of political actions, nor a fundamentalist approach to religious motives.
It was a sports column.
Yet one reader, Matt, sent Pearlman a link to porn in his “apology.” Another called Pearlman a “f—- retard.”
Pearlman tracked them both down (and even spoke with one mother).
“The filter that was a pen and paper has vanished, replaced by the immediate gratification of negativity,” Pearlman wrote.
Free speech is a powerful, necessary cog in the democratic machine, but one must wonder how a society can function with the shroud of anonymity clouding the atmosphere of civility and common decency.
At what point can we say, “Stop, this type of behavior is truly corrosive to society.” It is a difficult path to traverse between protecting free speech online and instituting controls on violent, bullying rhetoric that can cause youths to kill themselves.
Perhaps middle school teachers and high school teachers need to have one lesson each month solely dedicated to online conduct.
Maybe everyone simply needs to head back to kindergarten. Share. Play nice. I’ll bring the crayons.