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:
- Jean Peck thinks Nebraska basketball fans are “rude” for chanting “Husker Power” during team introductions.
- Charley Ackerman believes the sound system at Nebraska football games is too loud and plays too much “hip-hop hogwash“.
- Today, the LJS published a letter from Janet and Jay Squires. They also feel football games are too loud as they can hear the stadium noise inside their house, 1.75 miles from the stadium. The Squires also issue a stern warning: Don’t even get us started on the parking”.
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.
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.