Brainerd Dispatch is in the process of conducting an audience survey. After our first eight days into the survey, one thing was clear — our audience respondents were unequivocally fed up with VOX POP.
Many stated that it was unfair. I’ll let them tell you what they think of the column: “You lost me when you put in Vox Pop. This garbage does not belong in a newspaper, especially when people can ridicule and criticize others, and generally rip people up and down without signing their name.” Another responded in a similar manner: “First of all, it shouldn’t even be allowed. I will NEVER support any publication that allows this.” That was followed by this comment: “It might be a popular thing, but it is not the RIGHT or APPROPRIATE thing. GET RID OF VOX POP!” This one caught my attention for obvious reasons: “If for nothing else, journalistic integrity. I do not like the anonymity of the Vox Pop and the hateful, name-calling online comments.” “Vox Pop needs to go. I’m sure it gets views, but it’s mostly the same people whining. Sign your name, or don’t complain,” said this disgruntled member of the Dispatch audience. This one was blunt and to the point: “Mostly- Vox Pop is a joke!” “I trust the Brainerd Dispatch to be accurate, except for Vox Pop. I believe you do offer many perspectives on many issues and that you report school stories fairly. I do not think Vox Pop is constructive for interests beyond selling newspapers, or that after 10 years of this anonymous, negative, often incorrect column that the Dispatch can claim it helps anyone but the Dispatch,” Ouch! “Notwithstanding the fact that I have been personally named and personally criticized — my lot as a public figure — the overall negativity and base opinion often registered does not, in my thinking, become much of a ‘draw’ for others who might want to join our community,” said one person who received critiques.
After discussing the future of Vox Pop in our department head meeting last week, it was determined to confine Vox Pop to the Dispatch web site. It was as though we were cancelling Jerry Springer’s contract. Vox Pop will no longer appear in the print edition of the Dispatch.
There are many other ways to voice one’s opinion without cutting others to shreds and identify one’s self in the process. We allow audience members to sound off in our Open Forum segment of the commentary page.
Our decision was an overwhelming consensus of department heads that Vox Pop needed to go from the pages of your newspaper. It will be redesigned in the near future to avoid personal name calling and yet allow members of our audience to state one’s opinion without fear of reprisal.