Stab Magazine | Letter From The Editor: The Perfect Storm

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Letter From The Editor: The Perfect Storm

Keep it cutty, with a little class, Stab.

news // Sep 13, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

While I write this my hometown is waking from a thorough beating by Hurricane Irma, my Pops and family hunkered down on high ground, safe for now. The surrealism, the last two days, watching Irma cut its path through the Caribbean, bearing down on Florida, is hard to explain.

Meanwhile, after an exciting first week on the job, I find myself squarely in the middle of another storm, following news of Stab’s repossession, and my nefarious “snowflake” plans to cull anonymous comments. The hate pours in. I should have seen this coming.

On Friday, I wrapped my first week on the job. We got the jump on Dane Reynold’s new feature; and scooped the WSL’s closed-door meeting and plans to overhaul entirely what many consider to be an antiquated system (with one that, the WSL earnestly communicated to us, is meant to push surfing in a positive direction). The fallout online, from our leaked story, was palpable. Feeding the fire, I called up Bobby Martinez, and the sparks continued to fly.

As the clicks kept coming Friday, I closed my computer and walked outside in the Los Angeles sunshine, feeling pretty good…

Then over the weekend, karma came knocking, Irma took a jog west and headed up Florida’s Gulf Coast, just as a storm began to rage around my free-speech smashing plans for digital fascism. All night, I found myself chain-smoking spliffs, refreshing the Weather Channel, waiting for texts from Pops, watching the comments section unravel:

“Goggans couldn’t take the heat! Fuck you – love, anonymous disqus user”

“well done assholes. you’re now gonna be as boring as SURFER. Ashton sounds like a social justice warrior snowflake. expect pseudo name Facebook accounts to start popping up and being filthier than ever!”

“Message to Googan;, stab is a fucking surf magazine, that works (just assume that), to entertain the bad boys of the peak. Suddenly you cant stand anonymous criticism. So…or you are to soft (cock) or you dont fucking understand who you are selling to.

Sincerely,

Your scum average reader

Ps. gofuckyourself”

How’s that for a tagline? “Stab: Entertainment, For the Bad Boys Of The Peak.” A star to steer by if ever there was one.

The damned if we don’t, damned if we do nature of publishing anonymous comments on an open, free internet is a subject we’re all surely tired of debating, the over-chewed meat of a thousand sociologist’s dissertations from the graduating class of 2009. And there’s no debating that Stab’s Disqus has been, not just part of their DNA, but one of it’s most iron-rich arteries, at both Stab’s and the surf world’s most anemic moments.

But, fuck if that space ain’t in a sad state. In the lead-up to stepping in as Editor in Chief, as friends and colleagues offered their congratulations from all corners of the sprawling surf world I’ve spent the last twenty years earning my place in, their supportive notes were followed by desperate pleas: you gotta do something about the Comments.

So, what was the easiest solution? With Stab’s  Facebook and Instagram comments dwarfing Disqus, it seemed obvious. If Thrasher could do it, why couldn’t Stab?

The news was taken as an act of cowardice, or as a fatal editorial juke in hopes of civilizing the wild pack we’ve fostered and let fester for the better part of a decade. Without Comments, would we be as “boring as Surfer?”

I’ve left dream jobs over leadership that I considered boring or cowardly. To have those terms, and the same criticism leveled firmly at my editorial head, on week one, well, it’s enough to force anyone to humbly look in the mirror. When Sam McIntosh approached me earlier this summer, and told me he was buying back Stab, that he was looking for a new Editor in Chief to snap his scrappy crew into shape, I saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. Knowing damned well the challenges of dragging along bloated corporate dinosaurs, having suffered through two years of it at The Enthusiast Network, to be able to shuck and jive, editorially, and to be able to shape truly independent surf media, I saw only blue skies and crisp offshores when I should have seen thunderheads building in the distance…

So, let’s talk Disqus. It’s no secret that the Comments section has seen better days. As Stab’s social traffic has grown, for every clever jab, there’s fifteen haymakers of just regressive, pointlessly negative, unproductive bullshit.

Though I’ll admit it was lazy, trigger happy, and shortsighted thinking Stab could just switch over to Facebook comments (or mine our Instagram posts for gems), I’m no coward. I won’t shirk away from an uncomfortable conversation, and I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong. And this morning, the emails coming in would lead me to believe that I am, in more than a few ways.

So we won’t throw the babies out with the bathwater. Yet. Instead, we’ll bring the heat and hope for the best. In fact, we’ll see your Disqus, and we’ll raise you. If half the reason so many of you are here is to play in the mud with the animals, we might as well hop in and have some fun with you. While it’s not a writer’s most romantic work, if we have to set ourselves to the job of flagging homophobic, regressive, racist comments to encourage a radical, free exchange of ideas, then let us take up the task proudly.

From now on, our writers will moderate and contribute to the threads that get pulled out of their posts each day, and our youngest, hungriest recruit, Michael Ciaramella will be making sure you jackals are only fed prime cuts. (Guy loves talking shit, don’t he? To his credit, he ain’t afraid to back it up, in and out of the water.)  

Moving forward and giving this a go, we’ll be incentivizing our loyal commenters and bringing on new moderators. Interested? We’ll be putting together regular packages for moderators helping keep the conversations moving forward, and holding reader-submitted competitions for all of you to sink your teeth into.

With last week’s repossession, and my arrival as Editor in Chief, it’s a blank slate here at Stab. While we continue to push Stab’s tradition of featuring the “best surfing, biggest names, and bigger thinking,” I’ll be bringing an outsider’s perspective, higher quality journalism and editorial, and a true believer’s bullshit meter. And I’ll be pushing to keep the underground brightly lit.

What I won’t be doing is operating as a faceless dictator, too insecure to let the fourth wall down and speak to readers directly. But right now, I need to check and see if my childhood home is still standing.

So, keep it cutty with a little class, Stab. I’ll see you in the trenches, but I’m looking forward to meeting you all on high ground.

Sincerely,

Ashton Goggans, Editor in Chief

 

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