An editor has hit out at readers who have abused his journalists over their newspaper’s online paywall.
Mark Waldron, editor of Portsmouth daily The News, has written an open letter to the paper’s readers urging them not to direct personal abuse at members of his team.
The News has been publishing free public information relating to the coronavirus pandemic online via its Facebook page and a newsletter for registered users of its site, but has retained the metered paywall it operates.
Readers are entitled to five free articles per week following which subscription is required to view additional content.
Mark, pictured, thanked those who had taken out a digital subscription in recent weeks in his letter.
He added: “I appreciate there are people who do not agree with The News’ subscription service. But it is part of our business model and has been that way since we launched it last May.
“For those who do not agree, I ask you not to direct your thoughts into personal abuse against my journalists. They are trained professionals – identified by the government as key workers.
“Their content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards anywhere in the world. And they are also real people – members of the communities you live in.
“They share the same worries and face the same issues as you do in these uncertain times. And so I would ask everyone to please not let healthy online debate spiral into personal abuse directed at my team.
“By supporting us, we can continue to support you. Keep safe and follow the government advice. Thank you.”
Speaking to HTFP, he added: “Unfortunately trolling and abuse from people behind the safety of their keyboards is part of life on social media – and as journalists we are not immune from it. But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it.
“I have been touched by the high level of support we are getting from readers as we have stepped up our efforts to keep them informed, entertained and connected during these troubling times.
“At the same time I accept that some people may not approve of the content we provide and don’t believe we should ask people to pay for quality journalism.
“I’m happy to take this up with them but I won’t have them use it as an excuse to verbally abuse my team.”
Several regional editors including John Wilson, of the Hereford Times, Laura Collins, of the Yorkshire Evening Post, and Plymouth Live’s Edd Moore have recently hit back at reader criticism of their titles’ coverage of COVID-19.