There were 78,939 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What were your top stories?
My column on the small band of verbal terrorists who stalk Noozhawk’s comments sections sure got attention, although — to be honest — I figured a headline with the words “Internet trolls” would be good for our SEO.
The whole thing started with the Aug. 27 wrong-way car crash that killed Daniel James Perez on Highway 101 near Bates Road in Carpinteria. The 16-year-old San Marcos High School junior was driving south in the northbound lanes that night when he ran into a tractor-trailer going the right way.
Perez was killed, but the truck driver was unhurt. There were no other injuries.
Almost as quickly as we posted that story, the criticism of Perez began to spew. Authorities are still investigating the circumstances that preceded the crash, but a few armchair accident analyzers were quick to conclude that alcohol and/or drugs were involved and the teenager got what was coming to him.
Maybe these amateur experts will be proven correct, or maybe it was simply a case of a newbie driver getting confused in the dark and making a fatal mistake. Either way, a young man is dead and his family and friends are grief stricken. Does such a tragedy really merit such vitriol? I mean, seriously?
Regardless, I reminded our readers that it’s our website and our terms, and there’s no excuse for incivility. That was way over the line for a handful of entitled commenters who trained their all-too-predictable ire on me, too, anonymously accusing me of being a censor, a whiner, a fake, a hypocrite, a loser, weak and an a-hole.
And then there was one who accused me of exploiting Perez’s death to make the story all about me. I’m still trying to figure that one out, but she wasn’t the only one with reading comprehension issues.
But amid the invective, many readers did express their gratitude for my rebuke, with a number of them offering thoughtful suggestions of their own for what Noozhawk should do with our comments in general.
We very much appreciate the input, and I want to assure you that our editors and I will take it under advisement. But my reason for writing was not to signal a change in our rather laissez-faire commenting policy; we just want readers to police themselves.
Noozhawk is a small company and our core mission is to cover local news with professional journalists. We think we do it well — better than anyone else, in fact — but we think we do an exceptional job of enlisting our community to help us tell the stories our tiny team can’t get to. Based on that experience, I don’t see why we can’t get the community to assist us with story comments.
What’s more, even among our editors, there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes a commenting violation. Once you start needing a staff discussion about every suspect situation, it diverts our resources from the news our readers are coming to our site to get. That’s not a trade-off we’re prepared to consider.
At some point, individuals must take responsibility for their own actions. You can be passionate about what you write. You can be argumentative and angry, partisan or pompous. We. Do. Not. Care.
We just ask that you be respectful of other readers and to be civil about it. That’s all.
Patrick Becker was a child of the sea. The 2011 Dos Pueblos High School graduate grew up around boats, was an avid surfer, and he was following his dad’s footsteps as a commercial lobster and salmon fisherman, even joining him on weeks-long excursions as they plied Alaska’s fertile waters.
Becker died unexpectedly on Aug. 14. He was just 21.
Hundreds of family and friends gathered at Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara on Aug. 29 to celebrate Becker’s life before heading down to the nearby harbor, where they piled on nearly 50 vessels for the short voyage over to the peaceful waters off Leadbetter Beach.
There, from the deck of the Martha Jane, Becker’s parents, Martha and Mark, and his brother, Matt, returned him to the ocean he loved.
The cause of Becker’s death has not been disclosed, but the news hit home for members of the tight-knit and often multigenerational Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara organization, which arranged for the marine memorial and interment of ashes.
“He was following his dad’s footsteps as a fisherman,” family friend Karen Purdue told our Gina Potthoff. “… His life was all about the ocean.”
After Pastor Denny Wayman led the fleet in a prayer over the radio from shore, Becker’s family thanked the floating support group.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he would’ve been blown away,” Martha Becker said of her son. “Thank you. This is a beautiful sight.”
A spirited sharing of favorite Becker memories followed over the boat radios before a spectacle of horns, flares and water sprays erupted from the small navy.
The ceremony lasted about a half-hour before everyone turned back to the harbor so the celebration could continue with a barbecue on the beach.
Click here for a Facebook page created by Becker’s friends to honor his memory.
Shortly after we posted her piece around 9 p.m., Google News picked up our link, and the resulting traffic jam nearly crashed our website. Our web host expanded our site’s capacity and we were back at peak performance within a half-hour, even as the readership spike continued for a couple more hours.
The points Diane was making in her column were that the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, the police response and the public’s reaction offer a much-needed opportunity for an authentic national discussion on race relations, crime and poverty; police procedures; and the role we can play in making a positive difference.
Two construction workers suffered multiple injuries after falling off scaffolding at a house being built along Shoreline Drive in Santa Barbara’s Mesa neighborhood.
Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said the two men fell about 14 feet after wooden construction scaffolding gave way the morning of Sept. 2. He said the scaffolding had been built on the side of the two-story house in the 1200 block of Shoreline Drive.
One of the men had back injuries and a possible broken wrist, and the other may have broken both ankles, Pitney said. Both men were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be investigating.
A late-afternoon fishing trip became a doozy of a fishing tale for two kayakers caught in sundowner winds off El Capitán State Beach west of Goleta on Aug. 30.
According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Vince Agapito, rescue crews rolled just after 7 p.m. after a 9-1-1 caller reported two kayakers in distress about a half-mile offshore.
“They decided to go kayak fishing, and put in at Las Flores Canyon, north of El Capitán,” Agapito said of the two men. “Their plan was to fish along the kelp line, but the sundowners came up, which they were not expecting, and they literally got blown out to sea.”
He said the men were nearly two miles out by the time rescuers reached them. None the worse for wear, the pair was towed back to the beach as darkness fell.
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This is some doggone impressive teamwork.
(irreye ertmi video)
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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.