Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Comment about 'No Comment'

My Journalism prof sent the class a link to the current American Journal Review editorial where the editor, Rem Rieder rants about Anon comments on news websites. The subheadline says it all: "It's time for news sites to stop allowing anonymous online comments."

Since the AJR doesn't allow Comments, I thought I'd try to do that Journalistic fair-and-balanced thing and talk about the other side--not that I'm overly fond of Cowardly Anon Nitwits.

First off, I can tell Mr. Rieder has led a sheltered life as the ONLY example he uses of a horrible Comment was this, and it was referring to a public official in--of all places--rough and tumble New Orleans:

"Theriot, just another Jefferson Parish politician thug mobster trained by his mentor..dressed up in a fa├žade of respectability by a corrupt Louisiana Legislature."

Hmm...sounds like Mr. Theriot (who briefly filed a defamation suit against the paper over the Anon Comments published) has pretty thin skin as well.

My Irish mother taught me a long time ago that "sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me." Geeze, if he really thinks that one is so bad, I should send him some of the choice comments I've had hurled my way over the past three years here and for seven or eight years earlier on Masslive, the Springfield Republican website.

What I worry about most--and what the editor completely ignores--are folks who post Anonymously because they fear retaliation, as in losing their jobs (which we saw here in Amherst when the Town Manager fired an Information Technology employee for copying a job related letter of complaint to the entire Select Board.)

And no, "Whistleblower Protection" does not trickle down to a town level as it is a Federal Law that only protects Federal employees who blow the whistle on corruption.

Catherine Sanderson (you know--the School Committee blogger that five school committee Chairs would love for the District Attorney to shut down) defends Anon posts on her blog because she knows some of them come from "insider" employees who could lose their jobs, or parents worried administrators or teachers could retaliate against their kids.

Family comes first.

"No Comment" Editorial June/July American Journalism Review


Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I haven't had a chance to respond to this post earlier, as I've been fending off bullying anonymous posts on my own blog ... but to me, the key thing is that there are people who WANT to share their thoughts, but can't do so if they will be identified. This includes parents who worry their kid will experience a negative outcome if they criticize the schools, and teachers who worry that their comments will create negative consequences for them if they criticize the schools/their colleagues/parents. I believe those voices are really important to have, and thus I've continued to allow anonymous posters (although I know read all posts BEFORE they get posted so that personal attacks aren't made).

However, I believe that anonymous posters sometimes really abuse the power of being unidentified, as you experience here frequently. They say things they wouldn't say, or they say them more rudely, than they would if they were speaking to someone's face, and that isn't fair.

But I haven't been able to find a solution between balancing these two distinct pressures ... suggestions welcome!

LarryK4 said...

Can't say I have the perfect solution either. But I do know with 100% certainty that banning comments from blogs or newspaper websites is not the answer.

And neither is restricting the First Amendment rights of a public official from having a PUBLIC blog.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Larry, does that mean I can count on you for bail money once I'm arrested for having a blog?

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in the Shutesbury Elementary School, I know for a fact that given who OUR particular Superintendent is, there would be absolutely huge repercussions if I were to post my name on an entry that was anything less than glowingly positive related to what goes on in our school or our Union. At the same time, one needs to be able to (safely) express ones feelings and opinions about (mostly negative) situations that exist. Yes, family does indeed come first.

PRESIDENT Calvin Coolidge said...

And what's to stop commenters from using public-access machines at libraries or schools, and making up false names?

Anonymous said...

Now, if you can only stop calling people juvenile names.

-Anonymous Voice

LarryK4 said...

Well if they left their REAL NAME I would call them by that, Cowardly Anon Nitwit.

Anonymous said...

"Larry, does that mean I can count on you for bail money once I'm arrested for having a blog?"

Nothing funny about it Catherine.

BTW, you're way too good for this "town"... a work of art attacked by morons and savages.

Fck Amherst and the Prozac sucking primates ruining it. They know exactly what they're doing, they work together and they could care less what you think.

And oh yeah... they're on the payroll... still.

$$$ <--------------- !!!

Anonymous said...

"they're on the payroll... still."

Some of them.

Anonymous said...

Catherine said, "I've continued to allow anonymous posters (although I know read all posts BEFORE they get posted so that personal attacks aren't made)."

Catherine practices selective moderating. It's true, that she moderates those posts that contain personal attacks. There are no longer any posts on her blog that contain personal attacks against those who support her. However, there continue to be many posts that contain personal attacks against those who either do not support her positions or those who she thinks deserve to be personally attacked.

I understand Catherine's desire to not have blog posts that personally attack people. Quite frankly, I have not decided if I agree with her choosing to moderate posts on her blog. It is her blog, however, and it's her right to choose to moderate. But, I wish she would ban ALL personal attacks and not pick and choose who its ok to personally attack on the blog.

Anonymous said...

Selective moderating is a form of censorship and I suppose if it's your blog you have the right to do that but it probably wouldn't be necessary if people stuck to issues rather than behaving in a juvenile manner by name-calling and attacking one's character. This sweet liberal little town suffers from the same dysfunctions as the rest of the world and although we like to pride ourselves as being adult and tolerant and accepting, when it comes down to it, we aren't.

qishaya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.