Is it a glorious level of truly local reporting in which concerned citizens report on the most important events and stories of their time?
As it turns out, it is mostly a bunch of people complaining, with frequent bouts of serious logical failures.
I'm in a few Facebook groups which purport to be places where local residents can report news. Ideally they'd post about phone scams, suspicious activity in their neighborhood, lost/found pets and other items, and share news stories that impact the community.
Some folks actually do this, to whom I say thank you.
Those types of posts work well for the most part...as long as you don't spend too much time in the comments section.
There has to be some kind of mathematical formula for calculating how far a comments section has veered off topic and into baseless insult based on the number of comments, the time the comments were left in comparison to when the post happened, how long the comment section stays active, and how many sub-comments/replies are present. If someone could create an algorithm to alert the innocent about infectious comments sections, they would do the world a great service.
So what kinds of news ends up being the mainstay of citizen journalists?
1. Griping Parents
I'd say about 60 percent of the posts in these community news groups are parents griping about something involving their perfect angel spawn.
I look at other people's kids kind of like I look at friends who have big dogs that, when entering your friend's home upon invitation, shove their nose in your crotch (or jump up on you) and you're supposed to smile and act as if it isn't super awkward while the owner sort of feebly yells "down!" but actually is so proud of their dog that they secretly think you love their dog as much as they do when what you'd really like to do is shove your knee into it.
So, when I see these angry parents posting in yet another outrage, I want to tell the parents that their child is a precious life, created by God. But beyond that, kids are basically, as preacher Voddie Baucham once said, a "viper in a diaper." A child is like a walking id, with zero self-control and full-blown narcissism. They absolutely need to hear "no!" and get some discipline. If you won't do it, others will have to.
That means--when I see people post as if it were real news--about the "horrendous" thing that happened to their little angel at the school/shop/event/restaurant/store by a teacher/authority figure/staff/clerk, I call bull. If I got in trouble at school, dad and mom were all over me, not the teacher.
"They made my little Johnny go outside for recess in this cold!" and then 40 people chime in and can't believe the horror.
"My little Betty's teacher didn't stop the kids from bullying and I'm so furious I'm going to start a petition!" and then 50 people chime in and agree that the school system is just the worst and that schools should be perfect when it comes to mentoring, teaching, behavior modification, nutrition, safety, and all of the stuff parents don't do at home, as if the behavioral and serious problems happening at school weren't a direct result of what's happening in the home lives of these kids.
(Side note: my ENTIRE SCHOOL CAREER was one of being picked on and rejected, and without hesitation, I'll tell you it was extremely painful and that, to this day, I consider it the best thing that could have ever happened to me. That's its own blog post for later.)
With these kinds of "community news" posts, you basically end up with a parent just wanting a bunch of people to validate anger, and maybe gloat over getting a teacher or waiter to commit seppuku.
It's probably little Johnny, whose mom thinks he's too precious to get chilly and maybe didn't send him to school with warm enough clothes, who's bullying Betty, as they stay inside during recess and play video games. Just hazarding a guess.
Parents who bully teachers and bully people online raise those kinds of kids. The main reason I didn't stay in teaching, even when asked to, was the parents. You can't teach a kid to close the classroom door without a parent complaining and demanding an apology. God forbid you flunk a star basketball player and he's ineligible, even though he's as lazy as they come and didn't do his work. Back then, at least, there wasn't social media for parents to publicly gripe about teachers. I can't imagine what it's like to be a teacher now.
This is never-ending, parents griping about how their expectations of how others ought to treat their kids is not being met. This is directly (and bizarrely) connected to how their kids run around restaurants screaming and the parents are oblivious or smile as if all patrons are so moved by their ability to have procreated three years ago that they surely don't mind the racket during their meal. Those kids are like the dog with its nose in your crotch.
Summation on this point: The parents doing the posting are the problem. They are so busy policing the behavior of others that they forget to do it with their own kids.
2. Schadenfreude Regarding Businesses
The second kind of useless community group discussion has to do with what I think is related to tall poppy syndrome, and the desire to see people who worked hard to create a business fail.
Periodically, there will be community posts about new business or old businesses that are closing, which is apparently an invitation to lose logic. It's worthwhile to let people know of businesses coming to and leaving the community; it's a matter of how people respond to it that is a problem.
Just a few days ago, in a post about the likely closing of Herbergers in the Kirkwood mall, I saw people both griping that there would be no place left to shop, that the mall sucked anyway, and now, to get back at the mall for not being better, they were going to shop online.
With logic like that, I open my arms and await SMOD (sweet meteor of death).
They complain that the mall sucks. They complain that the stores are all too expensive and they want stores like Jaba Lots. They complain that the mall is getting too ghetto and there was a fight last winter that proves that. They complain that there are no good stores. They complain that there's no food court or good places to sit, but then list every restaurant in the mall and explain why it's all too expensive. They gloat about how they'll just shop online even more since everything sucks.
Anyone else see some logical problems here?
You want cheap stores, you get a "ghetto" (to borrow their adjective for it) mall. You want a mall that's kept up, you need one that charges rent that covers the upkeep, and you need stores that make a decent profit to meet those rents.
In other words, you get what you pay for.
I don't want the mall to turn into a giant dollar store with a bunch of fast food joints. The minute dollar stores, secondhand stores, and clinics start anchoring your mall, then you need to worry. Look at the Gateway mall to the north, which is basically a clinic (and will probably be a full-on Sanford hospital in ten years), some random interior stores, and a bunch of stores that you can't access from inside the mall but only through exterior entrances. It is a frustration to go to because half of the vendors aren't reliably open during mall hours, making it a giant indoor walking track for the elderly and people who want a free place to let their kids run around (which, let's be honest, is what some of these complainers are actually after). Kirkwood mall enforces the rule that all businesses in the mall are open during mall hours. You can go there knowing that if the mall is open, so are its stores.
The Kirkwood mall is actually looking pretty good these days, with lots of remodeling happening, redoing the floor, bringing in new shops (including a clever rotating pop-up shop space), a smoothie bar at the north entrance, more seating, and restaurants spread throughout the place instead of one echoing massive food court where -- you guessed it -- parents let their kids wreak havoc, and people take condiments from vendors they didn't get their food from, and food is smeared all over the floor and Target and Scheels carts are everywhere because parents and shoppers think they are a personal convenience device for use in the whole mall, and the air smells like a fetid burgertacothaipeanutsaucefart. I like that the Kirkwood mall has a designated kids area, and that it's bright and sunny. I like that there's no massive food court, but that the mall is getting you to walk around and find the restaurants interspersed with shops, avoiding the concentration of food court smells and noises. In fact, the only thing missing from Kirkwood is a movie theater.
For those folks who were so disparaging towards the mall and laughing at it losing an anchor store, I'd ask: if you're not regularly there, why should the mall cater to your particular whim? And why do you seem to take such glee in businesses failing in your community? Having come from a small town in which, one by one, business closed up, I know it's not much fun when you have NO SERVICES near you. Buying ice cream in the summer was an impossibility since grocery stores were 30+ miles away. So be thankful for what you have and support it!
Summation on this point: People won't be satisfied until a business gives everything away for free, charges nothing to come in, has perfectly cheery workers (despite no income to pay them), and cleans up after them and their kids to provide an inviting space that will meet their every need. Hint: this is not capitalism.
So anyway, as it turns out, when the community reports the news, it's mostly complaining. We have the tools to make everyone a reporter, and people choose to gripe instead.
The natural state of human communication seems to be complaining. Nonstop. Case in point: here is a blog post of me complaining about people complaining.