Managing reader feedback in publications has been a growing challenge with the growth of the online world.
Producer.com has been around since 1995. Our website is one of the oldest in the industry, and this year you read approximately four million pages from the site. That’s big farm news.
Having been involved with the site from the start, I can tell you that we’ve enjoyed managing reader feedback.
It comes from a pair of shared histories in this industry: letters to the editor, which in our case is Open Forum dating back to 1923; and the earliest computer networks that farmers were using that preceded the internet.
Letters to the editor and larger opinion-editorials, written by readers, politicians and industry leaders, represent the voices of our neighbours and friends.
The early computer network forums and chat groups have spread into much larger networks of commentary, thought and group problem solving.
Farm groups on sites like Combine Forum and Agri-ville and on Facebook create forums where farmers with similar, and often heavily focused, interests can come together to discuss, or more accurately, express, the things that matter to them today. They can also share knowledge, which is an important part of farm culture.
The Western Producer’s comments sections after each story on our website are busy places as well. Readers can put their thoughts and opinions into play with our journalists’ work, adding value to the rest of our community.
Ours is a moderated system, so each comment that is added to a story is read and approved by an experienced editor. Not that we are stifling debate or silencing legitimate voices — we only ensure that those voices are respectful of others because sometimes passion will trump common values and push the discourse a little over the top.
We also will moderate opinions that make what we believe to be false claims or try to sell stuff.
Some of those comments are led by internet trolls, looking to pick a fight or to light a metaphorical opinion dumpster on fire just to watch others watch it burn.
However, our readers are mostly respectful, looking to join or en-gage their neighbours in discussion and grow the community through dialogue and shared experience — and we thank you for that.