Friday Feedback for May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017

Alas, the last Cinematique showing was Wednesday night

Scott Relan wrote on Tuesday: “I watch an awful lot of movies, coming from my previous career as well as occasional festival judge, but [The Sense of an Ending at Cinematique] really stuck with me. Kimberly and I both left Thalian [Monday] night with our jaws dropped. It was quite beautiful and sad. The audience was lighter than normal, and that is a disappointment as I think the regular Cinematique crowd won't know what they're missing. . . You all always pick the best movies for the Cinematique screenings. I try never to miss any.” Thanks, Scott.
I’m going to depart a bit from the usual content of Friday Feedback to step back for some context. . .

WHQR’s Mission Statement calls on us to “engage our community and promote civil discourse.” One of the questions I get most often from listeners about Feedback is

How are you able to read those negative comments with a straight face?

Actually, I find that pretty easy. Look at it this way: counting both stations, we present 336 hours each week of programming to the region. It would be astounding if no one in our audience ever heard anything they don’t like. They have every right to engage us if there’s something irritating to them, and I’m happy to share that with you, especially when they’re polite, as most listeners are. That’s one part of encouraging civil discourse.

Another way is by simply listening. I find that most of the time when I reply to some pent-up criticism, the writer calms down a bit and thanks me for responding. So that’s a win for everyone.

Lately, however, I find occasions where things get more frayed at the edges. If you follow our stories on whqr.org, you know that we always have a Comments section at the bottom. I read all of them. For most stories, there are no comments. A listener to CoastLine wrote to me insisting that I include in Feedback his disagreements with views expressed on CoastLine.

I suggested that Feedback was not the right place to continue that dialogue, and that the writer should use the Comments section of that episode instead. What ultimately resulted was a kind of flame war between two people of diametrically opposed viewpoints, with a verbal escalation of the rhetoric each time. I cautioned them that if this continued I would shut the story down. Well, it continued, and I did.

That was only the second time that I’ve had to take such action. In both instances, and a more recent one that popped up this week, the issue was not profanity or violence, but just a sense that the participants were being hostile and belligerent in their posts.

Not only was there (possibly) honest disagreement, there were personal comments that were the equivalent of “Not only are you wrong, but you’re stupid, your values are terrible, and your mama is ugly.” Unfortunately, I’ve seen an increase of this kind of anger taking over some of the comments we receive.

So, how do we bring such comments back into that realm of civil discourse? Were these really transgressions of that, or just strongly stated views? Honest observers will probably wrestle with these questions. However, lest we be lost in a swamp-draining circle of ambiguity and uncertainty, I want to tell you about a new programming effort we will be launching soon called “Curious Cape Fear”.

This won’t be a cure-all for the problems I have mentioned. But it will be a new, proactive, and interactive way to have our audience participate in suggesting and following up topics for coverage by our news department in Morning Edition and All Things Considered as well as CoastLine. We’re excited to be working on Curious Cape Fear, and you’ll be hearing more about it soon. In the meantime –

We’d love to hear from you on Friday Feedback. You can send an email message to feedback-at-whqr-dot-org, or you can leave a call at 910-292-9477. Download the new WHQR smartphone app for iPhone and Android. And as always, thanks for your Feedback.