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My Thanksgiving post

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so getting in the spirit of the holiday, I’ve decided to do a “What I’m thankful for” post. But rather than discussing how I’m thankful for my family, friends, etc. (all of which I am so thankful for), I’ve decided to talk about what I’m thankful for as a journalist.

While there are several things not to be thankful as a journalist — layoffs, bad pay, and long hours, to name a few — there is one thing I have recently become very thankful for: (somewhat) rational judgement.

In J-school, students are taught to be as objective as possible when writing a story, unless it’s an opinion piece, and to talk to sources from all sides of the story. Some don’t always put this lesson to use, but I like to think I do. I also feel this has spilled over into my “civilian” life as I try not to make snap judgements about people, events or situations. Though, I’ll admit I’m not perfect and sometimes do judge books by their covers.

This being said, I have to say I’m often saddened and appalled by the human race as I’ve read comments for certain news articles. (I discussed this same topic last year and still feel the same).

Earlier in the week, a crowd of thousands in Phnom Penh, Cambodia stampeded during a water festival, killing hundreds.

Now, for the most part, I’m pretty laid back and it takes a lot to offend me. But not only was I genuinely offended by some of the comments I read for this story as well as other stories on the topic from other news sources, but I was actually disturbed as well. Commenters call the stampede “just another stupid ‘accident’ by the 3rd worlders,” the  people in the stampede “dumb” and “animals” and the water festival “a makebelieve idea of ritualistic spirituality” (I know it’s “third worlders” and “make-believe,” but these are direct quotes).

The bread and butter of every journalist.

I’m not going to say these people shouldn’t have said what they said, they have every right to say what they want. I’m a journalist; the First Amendment is my bread and butter. I just feel there’s a time and place. A situation where there is a death toll of any number — let alone in the hundreds — is not it. Show a little respect for the dead and their mourning loved ones.

These comments also offended me as a Cambodian. My parents were born and raised in Cambodia. My dad came to the United States in 1975 and my mom came in 1980. My sister and I may have been born in America, but Cambodian culture was just as big of a part in our lives. We still have a lot of family there, including in Phnom Penh where the stampede happened. We visited five years ago and while the country faces many issues (corruption, poverty and poor healthcare to name a few), it is definitely a place I want to go back to and not just because it’s my heritage.There are several other instances in which the comments just make me shake my head in sadness and disgust, including ones where comments are directed at other commenters. And I’m not talking about the mere heated debates. I’m talking insults regarding an individual’s background, parents, intelligence, etc. that have absolutely nothing to do with the story they’re supposedly commenting on.

And then, of course, there are comments directed right at the author or the publication. Again, I think people are free to say whatever they like. I’m not holding their opinions against them. Sometimes I agree with them. What I don’t understand is how mean-spirited some of these comments are. They’re filled with, among other things, (often misspelled) four-lettered words and inappropriate suggestions for said author or publication to do to themselves.

These types of comments make me think of this quote from a journalist on Overheard in the Newsroom:

Reporter: “We should have a Christmas party and invite all of our commenters. We can call it ‘Say it to my face.’”

When did people become so vicious? When did it become okay to fling such hurtful and hateful insults like dodge balls in a school gymnasium? What happened to common decency and courtesy?

I feel that the Internet — as great of an invention as it is — has given people just one more venue to be mean. And what’s worse, is it provides the anonymity that allows them to be as horrible in their comments as they want. They don’t have to worry about the repercussions.

You were probably expecting a feel-good post about what I love about journalism. Instead you got a rant. For that, I apologize. I did start writing with those intentions. I just got carried away with the comments tangent.

I guess you shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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