Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Commentary: Should Bad News Not Be Told?

By Bixyl Shuftan

This summer, we got contacted by a reader concerning some articles we were reading. It wasn't about accuracy, but rather the content. We had published some articles about residents being less than pleasant to others, and she expressed worry that we were making the Grid less attractive to those who hadn't yet tried Second Life, and would be steered away from giving it a try.

I've heard a similar complaint about real-life news, people saying newspapers and broadcast news tell only bad news. And there is a belief among some in the news industry that bad news tends to draw more attention. The latter may or may not be true, but the former isn't. By it's nature, the news industry is about the reporting of unusual events, notably those that affect a particular media's readers the most.

Reporting little but bad news and gossip isn't the style of the Newser. Our rivals the "Herald" did so, reporting on lots of stories about griefing and drama. While some take a delight in the stories of the miseries of others, we don't, and there were no shortage of people who complained when the self-described tabloid was operational.

Giving an overly-rosy image has it's own problems. When the TV show "CSI" did an episode that featured Second Life, it was less than accurate. There was no lag, everyone used voice, etc. So visitors seeing the show finding out about Second Life there and then logging on would find themselves surprised that details would take some time to load. With the reality of the place so quickly falling short of the image they were given, many would leave and not return. So giving an image of Second Life without the pitfalls has it's own problems.

What's best, at least in my opinion, is a kind of balanced approach. On one hand, some warning of problems as they arise, in addition to allowing readers to vent some through submitted commentaries. And on the other, showing plenty of good that goes on in Second Life, places to explore, the stories of interesting people, and exciting events. And of course of problems being fixed (the Lab actually does listen, sometimes).

Do we do a perfect job? No, we make our share of mistakes. But giving fair warning about problems isn't one of them.

There's a story about the making of the statue of a certain king. He was not an especially attractive man, being in late middle age. The sculpture carefully suggested he could make the statue look younger. The king told him no, but to make it as he appeared, "warts and all." His kingdom had prospered under his rule, and he was confident history would judge him well.

Second Life has much to be proud of over it's ten years. Yes, a few griefers are still around. Yes, the place still has lag and bugs. Yes, there are times the Lab can be downright clueless. But rather than hide the warts, it's better to let newcomers know things are less than perfect. But the good here far outweighs the bad.

Bixyl Shuftan


  1. Hooray, Bix for telling it like it is. Life is complex, and filled with the good and the bad. We want to be honest an open. That's what the news is about!