Lincoln Journal-Star

Dear LJS Editor: Stop Trolling Us

My e-migo Derek Hernandez of NoCoastBias.com and CornNation has a recurring feature called “#PictureMeTrollin” where he posts statements and opinions (not necessarily his) intended to get a response from readers.  It’s a brilliant feature for a website as it inspires comments, conversation, and back and forth arguments – all of which leads to page views, clicks, and other metrics websites use to get advertiser dollars.  Plus, I like that Hernandez tells you right up front that you’re being trolled for a response.  That kind of honesty is refreshing.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as forthcoming with their trolling attempts.

Yeah, I’m talking about you, Lincoln Journal-Star.

The LJS has a bad habit of trolling their readers via their Letters to the Editor page.  The editorial board is quite fond of publishing letters from…how shall I put this politely…people on the polar edges of an issue, or folks who have an unpopular opinion about something most folks know and love.

Obviously, partisan politics is low hanging fruit for the Letters page.  Newspapers across the country run letters from extreme conservatives bashing liberals (or vice versa), so the LJS is not alone there.  But that’s not what I’m referring to here.

I’m talking about the Journal-Star’s love for publishing letters from citizens who say wildly unpopular things about Nebraska athletics or take issue with how NU’s athletic events are run.  Three recent examples come to mind:

In all three examples, your average Husker fan (a solid majority of the Journal-Star’s readership, I presume) probably rolled their eyes after reading the letter – or laughed at the awesomeness that is “hip-hop hogwash”.*  Some probably took to the comments section on journalstar.com to bash the letter’s writer.  Others may have gone onto social media or their favorite message board to sound off.  As you can tell from the links above, I took the bait and wrote blog posts about them.  Yep, I was trolled.

*Seriously, it just refuses to gets old.  Hip-hop hogwash.  Hip-hop hogwash.  Hip-hop hogwash.  

Is this who picks the Letters to the Editor at the Journal-Star?

Regardless of where you share your opinions, you probably included a link back to the original letter, which helps journalstar.com get more clicks.  Maybe you went back repeatedly to read and respond to other comments on the letter.  Maybe in doing that, you used up the 10 free views you get from journalstar.com, so you decided to purchase an online subscription.  Maybe you accidentally clicked on an ad.  Meanwhile, the Journal-Star watches their page views go up and counts their ad clicks.  Whether or not they think the letter is stupid is irrelevant.  They’re just trolling you for a reaction (and clicks).  And it works.*

*Oh yeah it works.  I would love to get Janet and Jay Squires “started on the parking” so I can find out who the heck is parking almost two miles away from the stadium on a football Saturday, when there are thousands of spots downtown and hundreds more on the street in neighborhoods much closer than where I believe the Squires reside.  Husker fans, if you’re parking in the 6th and B Street area for a game, you’re doing it wrong.

I’d also like to point out that when the wind/weather conditions are right, I can hear crowd noise and marching bands from the high school football field (Seacrest) that is approximately 1.75 miles from my house.  I have yet to write any letters of complaint.  And if I did, I’d send them to the Lincoln School Board, not to the Journal-Star, a local TV station, my congressman, or anybody else who ultimately doesn’t care.

Clearly, the Journal-Star is not alone here.  Regardless of if you believe they intentionally publish letters simply to drive traffic and responses, you have to acknowledge that the Journal-Star is receiving some odd letters from people without anything better to do, kooks, and the “Get off my lawn!” crowd who believe that a letter to the editor will convince the NU Athletic Department to turn down the volume at games.

Personally, I like to believe the paper receives at least one letter a week composed entirely in crayon or letters cut out of a magazine. But just because you receive the rants and ramblings of a retiree, it does not mean that you have to print them.

C’mon Lincoln Journal-Star:  Either stop trolling us, or have the courtesy to own it.

What We Can Learn From Jean Peck

I’m a little late to the party on this, but it’s too good to let it go by without comment:

A woman recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Lincoln Journal-Star.  Her beef?  Fans chanting “Husker Power” before basketball games – specifically, during when the starters for the other team are being introduced.  This woman, Jean Peck, feels it is “rude and unsportsmanlike”, and fears that such a cheer could “tarnish” the reputation Nebraskans have for being good fans.

Seriously.

On one hand, I can see where Jean is coming from.  Nebraska spent the last 25 or so years playing at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, a place so lacking in atmosphere and competitive advantage, that media members often referred to it as the “Lincoln Library”.  Going to a game at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, where Nebraska is enjoying a healthy home court advantage, must have been a shock.

But really?  The Husker Power chant is unsportsmanlike?  For those who are unfamiliar, the chant works like so:

  1. One half of the building shouts “Husker”
  2. The other half of the building shouts “Power”
  3. Repeat.

That’s it.  There is no foul language, thinly veiled threats, sexual innuendo, or anything that taunts, harms, demeans, or otherwise attacks an opposing player or coach on a personal level.  Maybe you can make a case that cheering over the P.A. announcer while the other team is being introduced is rude – but only to the P.A. guy, and even that is a reach.

But what I find fascinating is how many lessons one can learn from a simple, 107 word letter.  Among them:

  • Some folks have wayyyyy too much time on their hands.  Seriously, Jean – consider picking up a hobby.
  • Clearly, Jean has never been to basketball game (high school or college) with a strong and rambunctious student section.  Often times the introductions of opposing players are met with a chorus of “Who cares? He sucks!”.  Back in my day, we all pretended to read the Daily Nebraskan as the other team was introduced.  Both of these are more rude than Husker Power.
  • Some fans don’t understand that loud and intimidating does not necessarily mean rude and obnoxious.  Personally, I really like how Nebraska volleyball fans handle player introductions.  After each player is announced, the crowd claps three times in unison.  I think the resulting effect (“Amanda Whatsherface” *clap*  *clap*  *clap* ) would be rather intimidating for an opponent, especially when done by 8,000 fans.
  • However, quiet and friendly almost always leads to a losing season.  Nebraska basketball has stunk for a while.  A large part of that is due to a lack of talent, and the struggles of past coaches, but having zero atmosphere did not help.
  • There are people who attending sporting events who are more concerned with how their team/university/city is perceived than in if their team/university/city actually wins.
  • Life in Lincoln, Nebraska is pretty damn good if this is a debated topic of conversation.  (The other letters printed that day were about global warming and using resources to protect trees from an invasive beetle).
  • Newspapers – and especially the Journal-Star – are not above trolling their readers for a reaction (and online clicks).  Unless they only received three letters on that day, fishing for a reaction is the only logical explanation for why this letter saw the light of day.

Personally, I think the last one is the biggest lesson to learn – and the most disappointing.

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