This isn’t the first time that the racist idiocy that is the comments box at the Sac Bee has come to my attention. We here at the Rag, and other bloggers like Heckasac have often pointed out the problem.
Today’s racist idiocy comes from this story of the shooting death of a young woman in Oak Park:
Bordeau at 6:36 AM PST Thursday, July 17, 2008 said:
What a surprise
Isin’t (sic) multiculturalism wonderful. Were any of these people employed?
The comment is still up (UPDATED) at this morning, and one hopes the Bee will catch up and remove it later this morning. I notice there is a “Flag for review” link, but it is only available to logged in users, go figure. The offensive comments Heckasac was concerned with on that 2007 post are no longer shown on the post she links to, so it must be working.
However, I have to ask what is the point in the first place. On a blog, in many cases, the blogger is providing news commentary, so it makes sense for the peanut gallery to contribute. I’m well aware that flaming is older than the Web and that bozos abide, but something about the amateur status of blogs, and the limited audience, puts jackassery in the comment box in perspective. I say limited audience because with a newspaper there is that expectation of professionalism and being for the community, which even on a local site like ours does not come with the territory. I can’t quite put my finger on it, maybe somebody can fill in what I’m not saying. Sure, we have our resident uninformed, offensive dolts, and truth be told we probably don’t delete offensive comments as often as we could or should. However I think most people would have to agree we don’t often get comments at Bordeau’s level of indecency.
Also is(i)n’t the chief defensive posture from the old media vis-a-vis new media the unreliability and lack of credentials of the pajama-clad riff raff? If you allow any jackass to vomit his racist filth on your sourced, fact-checked, researched, and well-crafted news articles, aren’t you just giving up any semblance of being above that? However, I do realize I’m creating a straw man there. (I call him Darryl Strawman-berry.) I think of the people I know, even just through e-mail, who are in the newspaper business. Or take Andrea V. Brambila, whose byline is now soiled with Bordeau’s I’m-running-out-of-terms-so-I’ll-just-say idiocy again. I can’t imagine she sees that comment and thinks what a wonderful business I’m in, that I can help provide a platform for this thoughtful individual to speak his peace (just guessing on its sex there).
No, the presumed need for the consumers to share in the newspaper is coming from elsewhere. I suppose there are aspects of the article that are legitimate–ombudsmen and letters pages being as old as dirt, and moderated comment threads being merely a modern version. But I suspect that the business and not the editorial side of the paper is driving this decision.
I’d love to hear from Bee journalists on this issue. How does the comments box make you feel about your job?
UPDATE: Blogger Plumwin (to this day, btw, still one of our top referring sites) points me in the direction of Bee Public Editor Armando Acuna’s Sunday editorial about the comment flagging. It is a hilarious read that helps me make my point. Apparently the flagging is an automatic thing, which turned into a “flagging war,” which led to flaggers–not offensive commenters now, flaggers–being banned from the site. What a mess. They must be really invested in this. I love this part:
Some editors believed the flagging was initiated by a single user, a Folsom man known as NoNewArena, a well-known provocateur who had been previously banned.
But [assistant managing editor for interactive media Ken] Chavez said there’s no way of knowing whether that’s true, or whether others have taken up his cause, or are associated with him in some way or are simply just using similar user names to be contrary.
And here’s a major WTF:
“We’re not prudish old maids,” Chavez said. “We allow things that wouldn’t ever get in the paper.”
Now everything has come full circle and it’s some readers who won’t.
Excuse me? He’s taking “some readers” to task for not allowing any old claptrap to appear in the paper? I thought the issue was that a few jerks were flagging comments that were otherwise OK. If true flagging is going on, then aren’t the readers doing their job… or the paper’s job, to be precise.
How bout we just get back to you know, researching what is going on in the world, and then writing about it, and putting that on paper for us to read?