When news happens, it needs to be reported.
We’ve said it before, but based on some social media warriors’ reactions this week, it bears repeating: There is no “if we want to” or “when it’s convenient.” If something notable happens in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this newspaper will do its best to cover it. (Of course, if we miss events or are unaware of some issues, we always encourage you to let us know. And you do.)
Whether we disagree with an issue is not relevant – we exercise our news judgment to report on significant happenings in town. We’re far from perfect, but with our very small team I think we do a pretty good job covering most local issues. But we always strive to offer the most comprehensive coverage of NOTL matters.
This week I was disappointed with some of the comments on social media, (It’s always social media, isn’t it?) regarding a small story about animal rights activists during the Icewine Festival. The article was published on Facebook Monday afternoon and within an hour the notifications started pouring in.
Many people commented that we shouldn’t give the activists more publicity. We need to stop covering their actions. We need to just ignore their protests and stop giving them a voice.
But that isn’t our job. As a news outlet, we don’t get to decide that just because we don’t like an issue, we should stop covering it. The protest happened in town, it is an ongoing issue that won’t likely disappear, and it is relevant to our readers, NOTL businesses and the community at large. That’s news.
Yes, it is our job to report and share our articles – that is simply the role of any media organization.
But, ironically, it is actually social media warriors who are making the issue bigger than it needs to be. Because of the way social media platforms tend to work, with every comment, retort, like and share, you are telling Facebook’s algorithms that this story is important, and this story needs to be seen.
We continue to publish every Lake Report article on Facebook every week. But you, the readers, are the ones who ultimately decide which posts are deemed important.
Looking through our own Facebook pages for both The Lake Report and our website, NiagaraNow.com, we can clearly see that stories like the animal rights protest have more than 500 post engagements – which means people clicked, shared, reacted or commented on it more than 500 times.
Published roughly the same time was an article about The Heritage Trail Committee receiving a sizable donation – also news that is relevant and important to NOTL readers. That post, however, had only 54 engagements initially.
Even last week’s articles, arguably more relevant to residents: “Marotta ‘likely’ to appeal court decision on Randwood” and “Town approves 4% hotel tax – in principle,” garnered fewer online engagements than the protesters’ story.
The good news is there is a way for you to stay informed about issues like the protests, but not increase those organizations’ profiles on social media.
If you want to see the protesters fade into obscurity (please!!), minimize the sharing, commenting or taking part in long threads of debates on those posts. By all means, read these contentious stories, because you need to know what is going on in your community, but stop there. Don’t engage further.
It isn’t a perfect system, but it seems to work; Facebook algorithms pick up on which posts garner the most traction and share accordingly.
I encourage you to save your comments, reactions and shares for the news you think is most valuable for the town. Use your power to decide which posts are important and what news is spread on social media.