This morning I received a phone call from a reporter at another newspaper asking if I'd like to comment about Commissioner Ron Kim's press release.
Company policy generally sends requests for comment to the publisher, I said, adding, "What press release?"
A call to Kim's cell phone interrupted him at a public safety department budget meeting; he promised to have the release faxed to the newsroom and we would speak later.
The fax (which his campaign spokeswoman swears was supposed to have been sent to us, too) makes some reasonable comments in a needlessly adversarial way. The release makes it sound as though there has been a longstanding problem with racial slurs by commentors
to online stories, and that no one did anything about them.
"For several months we have noticed an increasing number...." the press release begins, quoting spokeswoman Georgana
Of course this concerns me as editor of The Saratogian
. We are learning as we go, but we pay attention to complaints to comments.
In separate telephone conversations later in the day with Hanson and Kim, no one knew who the "we" is who had been noticing this for "several months." And neither could explain why no one reported the offensive comments. Every post after a story on our Web site offers readers the opportunity to report the comment as abusive. Personally, I tend to err on the side of taking a comment down. A couple of times, I banned an IP
address whose owners were not content to merely be idiotic.
In an ideal world, we would have a staff person whose job was to review every submission ahead of posting, assess them and then either reject or publish them in timely fashion. To move the comment conversation along, instead we rely on community policing. You see a comment that's offensive, you report it, we act on it. It seems to work. But it does depend on community members taking the trouble to click "report abuse."
Kim wonders whether no one reported comments likening him to a Korean dictator because no one considered it so offensive that it should be removed. I agree with him: it is
offensive, and I don't want such comments associated with The Saratogian
You can criticize Kim and you can criticize me, and readers know that some of you out there have made that a part-time job. But credible criticism doesn't devolve into name-calling.