Anonymous commentary lacks weight

Posted July 17, 2009, at 6:58 p.m.

One of my favorite people from Plymouth, whom I haven’t heard from for a decade or two, dropped me a note the other day welcoming what he called the “return of edgy Renee.”

Apparently he appreciated a column I had written that took a poke at an area city councilor who was convinced that Bangor was trying to gobble up the city of Brewer.

Seems my buddy isn’t so jazzed when I dash off columns about my kids or my latest household angst or the occasional drippy, emotional piece that sometimes seeps out of my heart through my fingertips.

He calls those columns the product of “Renee Lite” and other than perhaps Miller Lite or Bud Lite I’m thinking my buddy isn’t much of a fan of anything that contains the word “Lite.”

My old friend is a funny guy and an honest one as well.

What I most appreciated was that he took the time to write it, address it, put a stamp on it and send it my way — oh yes, and he signed it — with his real name.

Those who write for newspapers are used to getting mail —hate mail, fan mail and just plain odd mail. Having covered courts and crime for a decade or so I’ve received my fair share of mail from prison inmates. They generally fall into the “Have I got a story for you!” category. Retired English teachers and retired editors also like to write. With no students or careless journalists to kick around, they tend to scan the newspapers gleefully searching for grammatical errors which they then circle with red grease pencil. Then they send them back to the reporter who wrote the piece. No matter how they do it or what they actually write, those letters always unmistakably say “SHAME ON YOU!”

From a writer’s perspective, the worst thing is to get no mail at all. That means you are neither pleasing anyone too much nor ticking anyone off too much, which leaves you to question whether you are earning your keep.

But of course the old wooden wall-mounted mail slots in the newsroom simply are not as full of envelopes as they used to be; instead it is our e-mail in boxes that are overflowing.

I’ve slowly grown used to receiving complaints or even the occasional accolade by e-mail and have learned that a well-written one can be almost as shaming or inspiring as a hand-written note.

I am, however, having a harder time coming to terms with the “Reader’s Comment” section. Nearly every paper that has a Web page has such a section, but to me it will never replace the coveted Letters to the Editor page.

Unlike a letter to the editor, which must be signed with the writer’s hometown included, an online published comment may be anonymous. As you can expect, it lends itself to anyone who wants to spout an agenda or bully a writer or a subject of a story without the need to take ownership of their words.

To this ancient reporter there is something remarkably “unnewspaperish” about that. My apologies to true wordsmiths. I know that is not a real word.

I have pretty thick skin and I don’t mind criticism. It goes with the territory, but I’ll never take seriously the opinion that comes from someone afraid to sign their name to it.

Here are a few examples of comments from some columns I have written.

When I wrote about a recent bus trip I took that proved to me just how many people are actually driving while texting on their cell phones, someone who calls themselves “snobabe” wrote this exactly as follows, “The person who wrote this article needs a better hobby instead of stareing in peoples cars while on the bus. Wouldn’t she of gotten a surprise if a couple was having oral sex, ect.”

Yikes!

Very true indeed, but snobabe might consider using her spell-check button.

When I wrote about a conflict that erupted during the graduation ceremony for Bonny Eagle High School someone named “Tracey” wrote that he or she finds me to be “sarcastic and with a know-it-all attitude. She also seems bitter and angry. With that being said, I agree with most of this column.”

A column about proposed gun legislation prompted “HotHerbie” to suggest that “Somebody toss this liberal Renee Ordway a bone into speeding traffic.”

Not exactly a nice thing to say but I’d have given it a lot more consideration had HotHerbie (who apparently thinks quite highly of himself) had dared to sign his name.

That Bonny Eagle story also got a comment in which the writer indicated he didn’t like me too much either and suggested that I give up my job as a columnist and take up a position more fitted to my demonstrated skill and become an enforcer at the next Bonny Eagle graduation.

But it truly pleased me that Harry Snyder III ( a regular in the BDN Reader’s Comment universe) had the courage to sign his name to his opinion and I might also add that Harry can spell.

Mostly those who visit this online and mostly bitter world of reader’s comments nail one another, anonymously of course. It’s sort of a place to go to vent your hate and discontent to anyone willing to sit down and read it. There is no truth meter or fact checker involved. The truth, therefore, is clearly optional.

That is not to say that there are not perfectly well-versed and seemingly reasonable and logical people who comment in that section. There are. But I also think they need to consider why they don’t fess up to who they are.

And I must say, as much as I have always cringed at getting those cut-out clippings in the mail from a retired English teacher or newspaper editor, an attack on my grammar simply does not have the same effect if there is not a red grease pencil involved.

I’m not sure whether this particular column will even be read by my friend in Plymouth, and if it is, I don’t know if he’ll label it “Edgy Renee” or “Renee Lite” but I do know if he feels he has something to say about a column I write, he will do so and he will have no problem signing his name to it.

reneeordway@gmail.com

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business