From the Editor: Disengaging from social media in divisive times


BACK BAY — I have given up on sharing information to local community pages on social media due to the rise in false, inflammatory and dishonest materials posted by members of many of these groups. If you want to see our content online, please visit the site via or follow the newspaper on our own social media pages.

This change has been brewing over the past year, and I recently quit the last local group. Online and social media are not a major part of our business. By design, this is a print newspaper, and we have had a good year of circulation growth despite the pandemic hurting some of the places where people like to get the print edition.

It is nice to be able to share links to certain stories or our annual voter guides, but it’s hard to publish our material in places where demonstrably false information is being shared. Additionally, I followed a few groups because I am interested in events as a citizen, especially local history and information about local businesses I visit.

The cost just outweighs the benefit. 

Due to the results of the presidential election, this is an emotional time for a lot of people, but I hope we find ways to use reason in responding to what is reported or alleged. Especially, I think this matters when interacting with your neighbors.

Sharing insults or fantasies about some big conspiracy is absurd unless there is proof. If sources are not named in media reports or social media screeds, you have a right to question them or, as grownups who exists in reality, we should apply some critical thinking before further sharing any political thoughts.

Additionally, I cannot keep responding to people who tag me or the paper on partisan posts, particularly conspiracy stuff or invitations to write critically about particular politicians some folks don’t like. The best way to reach me is by texting (757) 502-5393 or emailing me via I especially want to hear about good things happening in our communities. We need to tell more of those stories because good things really are happening in our lives and our city every day.

This is a local newspaper, and my job is to make one as well as I can every couple of weeks. We do news, features and columns. Hopefully, it is a pretty good mix. We have limited resources, and I try to apply them as best I can. I cannot get everything. If you don’t see something, please reach out.

We work to a standard that is different than what you might see in vague social media posts, and sometimes giving attention to conspiracies that are false only bolsters them in the eyes of some. So some stuff is not worth reporting, especially if others are tackling the issue better.

We operate under an ethics policy you can read online. We use attribution in our news stories so you know where information is from. We allow people to write opinion columns, and I often publish them even when I don’t agree because I believe in public discourse. People use their real names.

You may or may not like those opinions, but I hope the difference with what you read here is that you know where people are coming from, and, in the editing process, I try to challenge authors to back up opinions as much as possible before publication.

You can always call me or write a letter to the editor — or even a full a column — in response to something you read here if you like it or if your disagree. And if you don’t see something in this paper, please consider writing it yourself. Call or text me at (757) 502-5393 and we can talk about that.

There should be a standard in the public conversation. In my own use of the tool, social media — especially during this terribly bitter election season — has lacked a standard of decency and accuracy. 

People should back up what they say or expect challenges. We should be honest about when we do or do not know something, especially with our neighbors. And it’s fair to expect judgment for the company we keep.

© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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