It’s been a busy day today. As well as pushing the button on September issue (coming to a shelf/doormat near you next Thursday), I’ve been discussing future features with Cornwall Today’s freelance contributors. It’s really weird to be discussing the New Year when you’re still in high summer (allegedly), but such is the nature of county magazine deadlines. Come Christmas, I’m already thinking about Valentine’s Day. It should be great for planning your social diary, but the flipside of living life in the future is that by the time events actually come around, I’ve often forgotten all about them.
While pushing the button, an email from a valued contact popped into my inbox. It was an unsigned missive, sent to a company rather than a named recipient, and it cast aspersions on the signing of a CT contributor. “I don’t know why they’ve sent it to me, and it’s going in the bin,” said my contact. In this digital age, it’s quite surprising to see an old-fashioned poison pen letter, and it reminded me of a lesson I learned at a young age: if you don’t have the courage to sign your name to your opinions, then you probably know yourself that they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
It’s something I had reason to consider while reading a newspaper column the other day. The thing is, opinions these days often aren’t written on paper, but published indiscriminately in digital format. A worrying amount of this is done with malicious intent, under the cloak of anonymity – usually a silly Twitter handle. Zelda Williams has just left Twitter after receiving offensive material regarding the death of her father, the actor Robin Williams.
Women in the public eye have also been victimised. I wonder whether such trolls are really die-hard misogynists, or just boneheaded bullies in search of any easy target. That cyber-space is so huge has enabled such mindless cruelty to mushroom, which is a sad indictment upon a large chunk of society.
Should we, asked the columnist, insist on naming, rather than the default of anonymity? That way, people would have to think before they comment. Of course, it is acceptable to comment anonymously if to do otherwise would embarrass or endanger the correspondent. But newspaper letters pages often carry the words “Name and address supplied”. This means the writer has taken responsibility for his or her comments, and the editor can make an informed (and unbiased) decision based on this.
I do have the courage of my convictions. I am very proud of the CT team – staff and freelance, past, present and future. I think the quality of what we produce is evident in the support we receive from our loyal readership, the awards and nominations we achieved in 2014 and in previous years, and in the strong relationship we have with businesspeople in the county, many of whom have interesting things to say and help us to offer a varied and stimulating read each month.
I’m more than happy to sign my name to that – and indeed, I do so every month. That autograph on page 1 really is mine, flourish and all. And as a grown-up, I welcome comment and take criticism on the chin – as long as you sign your name, too.