Saturday, January 03, 2009

Reporter's Remorse

The question of whether or not newspaper stories should have open comments for readers is dramatized by a recent story in the San Francisco press "4 men sought in gang rape of lesbian."

There are over four hundred comments on this story of sexual violence, but many of them have already been deleted because they violate the newspaper's policies or were written by users who have been blocked for promulgating hate speech.

Among the comments that remain, a large number express violent fantasies toward the perpetrators and some even voice xenophobic or homophobic sentiments. Readers are allowed to "rate" comments with a thumbs up or thumbs down icon, as the following comment notes, but it does not seem to be fostering more civil discourse.

In every post there is a theme of extreme violence against these filth of our society. Yet, in every post, there are many "thumbs down"? What gives? Is there some reason these psyco's need to live among us? Even a dumb animal doesn't do this. Eliminate them!

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Anonymous Vivian Folkenflik said...

Years ago, newspapers and reporters might have thought the way to foster civil discourse would have been to avoid reporting the incident at all as an anti-lesbian crime. I suppose the open-comments hope is to make readers think about their own responses, whether they write in or not...? Some public discourse is not civil discourse, however; even supposedly civic-minded discourse does not always seem civil discourse. Thumbs up, thumbs down signs are from the gladiator arena, not the public square.

2:53 PM  

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