Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stop the vulgar commenting

As you peruse this week, it would be almost impossible to avoid seeing some of the cruel commenting on our coverage of two horrific tragedies. We have deleted the most offensive, and continue to try monitoring the others.

I've blogged here before, beseeching these commenters to show some decency. And I know this challenge is shared by Web sites worldwide. But it really hits home when it's about our neighbors, their families, their friends.

Yes, there also is some really sensible, thoughtful commenting on the stories. But the nasty ones drown out those voices. It's not the comments about our coverage, either, that anger me. It's some of the comments about these young men and their families.

Johnny Gordon and Travis Fricke died when their speeding car crashed and cartwheeled this weekend. And 19-year-old William White Jr., a former Bayshore High School student, was shot to death Sunday evening. Arrested in connection with his death are two 18-year-olds, Timothy Brooks and Cody P. Rogers.

East Manatee Editor Jim Jones wrote a column this morning in the Lakewood Ranch Herald, questioning how the commenting could be so harsh about such unspeakable loss. In part, he writes of the comments:

Many were sensitive, wise and insightful.

Others were crude, vulgar, racist and stupid. Shockingly so.

I won't dignify the lowest of the low by repeating those postings here, but there is nothing funny about someone losing their life in an accident or homicide.

I hope you all can help us weed out the cruelty before it permanently damages free speech.



Anonymous said...

I wish we knew how. They're killing us -- literally.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your editorial regarding the more idiotic, sensational postings. It shows a lack of education, human empathy, ethics, and moral center...
Now if we can just get those that post the articles to do the same.
Your paper fueled the flame by "making the news" journalism, so please, admit you bear some of the responsibility.
You wanted a huge following and posting to drive up the numbers, and that is what you got.
While I understand you are only following the path a lot of the media have chosen with the economic self justification of survival, when is too far, too far?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine if the statements made here in this Editor's Blog are true, because many of the comments accompanying the stories have already been deleted. Personally, I would like to trust that what the editors of this paper say is true, but unfortunately, my experience is that what the Herald frequently publishes as "truth" is often no more than "opinion", and I cannot trust that these editors' opinion of what constitutes "vulgarity" coincides wth my own. It could very well be that these opinions of what are and what are not acceptable comments are nothing more than the pretentious whinings of politically-correct self-righteous liberals. The left-leaning slant of this paper is quite obvious, and without the ability to read the contents of the deleted comments in question, one cannot dismiss the distinct possibility that the so-called "offensive" speech was deemed to be so by elitist censors.

I would suggest that what could "permanently damage free speech", as is so melodramatically stated in the Editor's Blog of the Herald, is not the occasional rude comments made by the readers of a small town newspaper, but by the censorship of those comments by those who feel that they alone are fit to define what is vulgar, racist, or as one Herald editor so eloquently put it, "stupid".

What I would concede might be legitimately labeled as a "stupid" comment, would be the one made by an anonymous poster who agreed with the Herald's position by writing that the allegedly offensive comments are "killing us - literally". That statement would probably legitimately qualify as stupid by more than a few people, because if these comments were killing us "literally", then we would be dead. Since we are not, then that statement is either grossly disingenuous or downright stupid.

Free Speech is great as long as people are saying what we want to hear. When they start saying things we disagree with, that's when Free Speech becomes problematic to some. It's one thing to censor blatant cursing, it's quite another to appoint oneself as the arbiter of what constitutes vulgarity amongst those things that are not so easily defined. What is not clear here, is whether the Herald's editors are objecting to what the majority would consider to be categorically offensive, such as cursing or real (not imagined) racial epithets, or if they are merely indignantly responding to politically- and socially-charged comments that do not align with their own left-of-center agenda.

Anonymous said...

It is not censorship when you stop someone from yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire...
There are some very, very spiteful comments made that are no more than doing the same by their diatribe spewed forth with venom. I have found this to be true of both the "right" and "left"...
The level of this of course may depend on what side you, yourself lean too?
No, we should rightfully expect journalistic responsibility...and in turn, responsibility within our community with our responses.
Surely you see the mature wisdom in that?

Anonymous said...

The "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" analogy works very well to illustrate the problem with censorship. Everybody clearly knows what fire is. Fire is fire. It is not debatable. The definition of "vulgarity", however, differs from person to person.

I have no idea what a newspaper should be rated. I would suppose it would be something like PG-13. If that is the case, then you could simply apply the rating system used for movies and television to newspapers. That would eliminate George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" along with graphic descriptioins of sex and extreme violence. Beyond that, where do you draw the line? The part of censorship that becomes problematic is when it intrudes into the areas of ideas, thoughts, and opinions.

Anonymous said...

If it would ease your mind at all, I would agree that many of the comments I read were, indeed, "vulgar, racist, or as one Herald editor so eloquently put it, "stupid"...on both sides of the story, by the way. I am neither liberal nor conservative so please don't try to define me by my "take" on these comments.

Frankly, the garbage I read made me sick and embarassed to be a part of this community.