The Politics of Provocation: Courting Controversy and Riding the Fallout

michaelAnnouncements, Uncategorized

This panel was moderated by Liz Gumbinner and included Buzz Bishop, Aaron Gouveia, Katherine Stone, and Andrea Zimmerman. It began with the panelists’ revealing their most controversial post.

If the site for which you’re writing has quotas for page views, picking controversial topics will help deliver numbers!  But are these opinions presented really yours?  For Buzz, yes!

Others have controversy find them unintentionally, like Katherine’s site with helping give a voice to persons with psychiatric needs.  But when it comes, she tries to “drop the rope,” meaning (as in tug-a-war) that you let them fall down by just choosing not to engage with them.  She’s not worried about page views, so having this policy isn’t detrimental to her writing objectives.

Andrea works with Disney (which owns Babble, the site for whom a couple of our panelist write) and revealed that as a result of Buzz’s controversial posts sometimes, Babble now vets blog topics and posts before they’re published instead of doing “damage control” afterward!  Sometimes if there are character attacks that are personal in the comments, the post may get taken down after its publishing.

On their personal blogs, the panelists generally allow comments unless they are attacking other readers of the site.

Are there gender differences in the attacks we get online?  The threats people give the writer do seem to vary.  Women will be physically throated with rape or with having their ovaries cut out!  Sometimes the violence goes offline.

The panelists generally run posts by their spouses before publishing them.

Have any of them published posts they later regretted writing?  Yes.  Aaron left his up.  Babble has taken one down that was in poor taste.  Katherine has taken down a post about something bad her daughter did, because she doesn’t want her to read it and be embarrassed one day.

Babble’s most viewed posts are positive or funny, not controversial, though, because controversial posts aren’t usually shared.

Has anyone written a post where commenters have actually changed the writer’s mind or provided “food for thought”?  Buzz has had a post or two where he felt the post was poorly written, but he hasn’t changed his opinion from a post as a result of comments.

After a negative Wall Street Journal article that incorrectly painted a negative picture of Katherine, she wrote a response on Babble, butt she didn’t “court this controversy” (or even write the article).

Aaron had some craziness in the comments on a post about circumcision, so he had his network of blogging friends address the crazy commenters/troll in the comments, so he could remain out of the mud.

Is controversy enjoyable online?  Buzz says “yes.” Aaron does, too, and he blames it on his family full of “loud mouthed, New Englander jerks!” He enjoys arguing and debating.

Andrea revealed that there has been a campaign that worked with Babble, and they chose to exclude one blogger from the campaign because of a post on the writer’s personal blog, despite the fact that everything the writer had posted on Babble was consistent with the image of the brand.  So, we must be intentional with our writings and our brand if we aspire to work with PR companies, sponsors, etc.

Does being a “controversial blogger” affect the writer’s “civilian / non-blogging” job?  It decreases sponsorship opportunities for sure.  Buzz had someone at his radio show question a tweet he had written once.  Aaron had a newspaper employer ask him to take down some blog posts on his site regarding the ’08 political campaign.  So, yes.

Are there lines to avoid crossing with writing about children?  Yes.  Aaron’s children are younger, but he plans to consult them before publishing stories about them in the future.  Katherine has posts about her feelings regarding the children during post-partum depression that she’d prefer they not see, but given the focus of the site, it has to stay up.  But, she doesn’t tell stories about them much any more anyway.

– Thanks for your attention — Michael Moebes –

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