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Daily health reporter joins condemnation of reader comment ‘vitriol’

Kevan ChristieA health reporter has become the latest journalist to hit out at the “vitriol” faced by he and his colleagues in online readers’ comments sections.

Scotsman health correspondent Kevan Christie, left, has attacked what he termed the “pencils-up-the-nose, underpants-on-the-head online brigade” in an opinion piece for the newspaper.

HTFP reported on Wednesday how Coventry Telegraph editor Keith Perry had warned that “truly appalling” online abuse of journalists is now becoming the “new normal”.

Now Kevan has taken up the theme in a piece in which he addressed claims that his newspaper was politically biased – especially in terms of the Scottish independence debate.

The Scotsman has historically been a pro-Unionist title and backed the ‘No’ campaign in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, but editor Frank O’Donnell announced in April 2017 that the title would be neutral in any future referendum.

In his piece Kevan wrote: “In the current climate of change for newspapers as we move from print to digital and cater for a new audience with different demands, there simply isn’t enough time to cultivate a cunning SNP-toppling plan, or to lay a trap for Labour. Agendas are not at work; good stories are.”

“We may not have the paper’s 200-year-old pledge of ‘impartiality, firmness and independence’ tattooed on our foreheads, but I know of no reporter who has ever been asked to skew a story in favour of one political party or another.

“I don’t cover politics as health is my beat but no-one who works at The Scotsman can fail to notice the vitriol that pours our way from the pencils-up-the-nose, underpants-on-the-head online brigade. They live Beyond the Wall in that bitter hinterland known only as… the readers’ comments section of most newspapers.”

Kevan is the latest of a series of regional journalists who have spoken out in recent months about abuse abuse they have received online.

Barcelona-born Wales Online journalist Estel Farell-Roig received racist abuse in January after speaking out on the government’s post-Brexit ‘settled status’ process.

The following month Bognor Regis Town Council member Damien Enticott launched a Facebook tirade against Sussex Newspapers crime editor Michael Drummond after he had covered a sentencing hearing involving Enticott, who had admitted assault by beating, theft and burglary.

And earlier this week we reported how Oxford Mail news editor Rebecca Hudson had received an apology from a blog owner after “completely ludicrous” conspiracy theories involving her were posted on his website.


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  • May 24, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    So how do we stop the “pencils-up-the-nose, underpants-on-the-head online brigade”? By scrapping online readers’ comments sections – simples!

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  • May 24, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    I genuinely can’t remember the last time I read a story comment that wasn’t total bilge anyway.

    “That shirt is red – I hate red – joke paper and poor journalism’
    ‘That shirt is blue – I hate blue – poor journalism from a joke paper’

    I don’t know why newspapers put themselves, their brand and their staff front and centre and let them be attacked in such a way.

    I realise the irony of saying what I’m about to say given that I’m posting here, but anyone who contributed regularly to a story comment section on a newspaper probably needs a hobby/job/psych evaluation anyway.

    My message to them all is to unplug, have a cigar and some cognac and become comfortable with your limitations and life choices, you’ll be happier, and allow journos to get on with doing a real job.

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  • May 28, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I assume that the digital ‘experts’ will say that comments sections help to increase ‘audience engagement’ but surely they’re more bother than they’re worth?

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  • May 28, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Scrap the comments sections. Their time has passed.

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  • May 28, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Some people use phones to make death threats. Should we ban phones?

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  • May 28, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    There is no excuse for personal vitriol to people, however when one journalist posted a spoiler in headline for Game of Thrones last week in a headline on the day of broadcast – I felt perfectly entitled to send them a slightly rude tweet!

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  • May 28, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    No wonder there are unsavoury comments with headlines like these:

    “Man dobbed in by the public as he stole from one-armed bandit in Skegness”

    “What to do if you suspect your neighbours of smoking cannabis”

    “Woman gives birth in McDonald’s car park – then orders a Quarter Pounder” (this story from Australia)

    “UK-bound passenger dies on Ryanair jet waiting to leave Majorca” (departing for Edinburgh)

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