The Jewish Report Editorial

Jumping into the mouth of the social media monster

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We so often get asked why we are not more involved in social media and told that we need to up our game. The people asking are 100% correct – this is truly an area in which the SA Jewish Report needs to improve on. And our new CEO, Dani Kedar, is working hard on this.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 24, 2018

It is essential. Social media is the playground of news today. So many people consume news and content through social media and not from print newspapers.

And while content is king, if people are spending more time on social media than paging through newspapers, then we have to be in that arena. Of course, we need to be sure that everyone has access to our content in case they want to read our stories.

Now, on a personal level – and I am probably showing my age here – I love Facebook. I keep up to date with people in different parts of my life and the world through this medium. I have access to the lives of people I care about, but simply do not see or speak to on a day-to-day basis.

But here is the thing: I am cautious about what I put on social media. I am careful about how I express my sentiments and am very wary of posting anything that could be misconstrued or misunderstood.

I stay away from certain topics. I do not use Facebook to make an impact or get a rise out of people. I have seen what happens to those who do, and it gets ugly.

Once, naively, I put up a photograph of two children, a Palestinian and an Israeli,holding hands with a peace slogan on it. I foolishly thought people would get that my sentiment was about wanting peace in the Middle East. Somehow people got the wrong message and the posts that followed got so vicious and abusive, I eventually deleted the post, shaking like a leaf. Lesson learnt!

Now, I have strong views and am not someone who minces my words or is afraid of sharing my opinion or arguing my point. I wouldn’t be a journalist or an editor if I was.

But I don’t like the idea of putting my perhaps controversial (depends how you interpret it) thoughts into the social media whirl. They then turn into a spark that either dies a quick death or becomes a veld fire and goes wild. Perhaps I am too much of a control freak.

So, on the SA Jewish Report, we don’t hold back on the types and depth of stories for our readers. We don’t self-censor, nor do we pull any punches. Sometimes you really enjoy them and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes a story may make you angry, sad or scared. Other stories may inspire you to do better, or inform you about something you didn’t know, but wanted to.

All of this is the nature of the beast.

Our content is available on our website. Also, we are putting more and more stories on Facebook and will move to other social media.

Some of the feedback we get on Facebook for certain politically charged articles is astonishing. In some cases, people post well thought out and articulate responses, which gets readers and SA Jewish Report staff thinking.

But then you get those comments that are so full of profanity and swearing, it is simply abusive and destructive. These comments are just vomited onto the page, with contempt. The views expressed are fundamentalist in extreme – on one side or the other, but which side is irrelevant. Either way, it boils down to fanaticism.

Stepping into the Twittersphere, therefore, makes me a tad nervous because of the emotive nature of the Middle East politics, South Africa’s relationship with the Jewish community and issues around anti-Semitism, etc. Twitter goes much further than the community. And judging by the ugly responses on Twitter to the deaths on the Gaza-Israel border, we know what would happen.

My colleague, Howard Feldman succinctly tells of his own experiences on social media in his column this week (page 18).

Having said that, the SA Jewish Report is brave, and we admire those who go where angels fear to tread, so we will not shy away from this. All I ask is that, if you are going to comment on social media, think hard before you press that send button. Your words remain online forever.

As a final note today, I want to thank the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation for having our back last week. You stood up to the wall of fire against Israel and the South African Jewish community with such strength. You made us proud and made us feel that we really do have communal leaders who will go to battle on our behalf. Thank you.

Shabbat Shalom



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