AddThis SmartLayers

‘Don’t abuse my journalists over online paywall’, editor warns readers

Mark WaldronAn 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.

HTFP also reported earlier this month how Doncaster Free Press journalists had faced abuse after publishing stories aimed at debunking coronavirus-related conspiracy theories linked to 5G technology.

You can read all our coronavirus-related stories here.


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • April 24, 2020 at 9:41 am

    “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.”

    OK, if you understand that’s ‘part of life’ if you’re using website comments and social media to gain click throughs and additional ‘audience engagement’ , then I would say you not only have to accept it, but you’re encouraging it by using those methods of interaction.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(47)
  • April 24, 2020 at 10:50 am

    Business models which rely on paywalls for local news are fundamentally flawed. If readers resort to abuse and/or genuine criticism over paywalls then they probably have a point. Unfortunately, so-called ‘quality journalism’ nowadays is bad ‘quality’. Understandably people don’t want to pay for it and they don’t like feeling like they are being pressured into paying for it. Genuinely important journalism such as the Sunday Times ‘sleep-walking into pandemic’ article at the weekend was cut-and-pasted, tweeted and emailed thousands of times despite pleas not to. Nobody was attempting theft of online intellectual property for the sake of it – there was genuine public interest and, frankly, very easy methods of circumventing the paywall.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(39)
  • April 24, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Totally agree with AndyN – paywalled sports content is usually to be found somewhere if you look hard enough. The real failing is that newspapers didn’t bite the bullet with paywalls 15-20 years ago. Sure it would have been unpopular then, but the general principle of paying for news would at least have been established by now. As it is, you simply won’t get many people to pay for something which they have been getting free for many years – no matter how many times you try.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(26)
  • April 24, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    Mark is correct, no one deserves abuse however when the pressures on reporters to post almost anything- non local-old news-ICYMI and so forth, just to hit a click rate target, or when posts are contentious to encourage a click through response it’s no wonder the public vent their frustration or disapproval.
    Sadly when any engagement ,albeit a comment, a like or rant ,is seen as a measure of popularity nothing will change. Perhaps not allowing comments or moderating the relevance of the content being posted is the answer.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(23)
  • April 24, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    People will pay for quality local news. But the emphasis must be on quality – and frankly that’s the problem. Good well-researched relevant local news, that shows depth of understanding, insider knowledge and expertise combined with excellent writing and good quality photos, would be something worth paying for. What people won’t pay for is the dross that’s is served up as local news. The me me me school of journalism, the social media rip offs, with little or no context (there is nothing wrong with using social as a resource but it must be worked into a proper story). The problem is when you can add no value, do minimal research and the writing is amateurish people will quickly realise that they can do the job themselves. And they are… you only have to look at the Nextdoor app to see that people are producing hyper local news content with the need of a reporter.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(22)
  • April 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    sup with the devil and all that…
    we all know social media is the sewer that gives stinking rats 10 seconds of what they see as fame. So maybe best avoid and not rely on it to trawl for quotes to fill space.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(19)
  • April 24, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    OneTimeSub people were used to paying to read news pre digital and would have paid to access an online edition of their local papers, now they won’t
    End of

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(20)