FILTERING THE RHETORIC
HITS THE FAN AGAIN
Once again the effluent hit the oscillating device while I was out of town for a few days last week! I refer to the debate being conducted on the pages of the Daily Pilot and it's blog on the subject of regulation, registration and censorship of comments presented on the blog.
NOT A NEW ISSUE
This is not a new subject. Ever since the management of the Daily Pilot decided to provide the opportunity to comment online on articles, editorials and commentaries there has been controversy. Much of it had to do with the anonymous posters - those who chose to hide behind the veil of anonymity to post comments. That anonymity has emboldened a few who corrupt the system by using multiple pen names to make it appear that their particular view is broadly held. Many of these same poseurs post criticisms of other folks who comment on the blog instead of offering constructive views on the subject at hand. Their obvious goal is to derail the debate of important issues by turning it into an attack on the debaters.
DAILY PILOT STAFF SIGNS IN
Many individuals have signed in on this issue, including several members of the Daily Pilot staff. On December 28, 2007 Managing Editor Brady Rhoades published a commentary decrying the kinds of online comments he was seeing, describing some as, "..despicable, delirious and downright deleterious to the ideal of constructive debate." You can read Rhoades entire commentary HERE. Publisher Tom Johnson took lots of flack for his commentary posted HERE. Columnist Byron de Arakal also received lots of grief from his most recent essay, HERE. Newport Beach resident, former council candidate and regular columnist Barbara Venezia - who gained fame stirring John Crean's sauces on their syndicated television show, At Home On The Range - chimed in with her own views, HERE. And, of course, yours truly had a letter to the editor published on this subject HERE.
In my view - and the view of many others - some changes are necessary to make the Daily Pilot blog a more civil environment in which to debate important issues. The violators of this civility pout and pontificate about loss of freedom of speech. The editors of the Daily Pilot presently require verifiable identification for any letter or commentary published on their print pages. My view is that they should not require less from those who try to post their views online.
Now, that doesn't mean that every person who posts has to necessarily do so with their own name, as I do. No, there are certainly valid reasons for choosing anonymity - business reasons, for example. That doesn't mean I won't criticize them for using pen names, though. However, it's my opinion that the editors should know the identity of those who post on their blog and exercise the same editorial discretion they use to edit the print version. It's unlikely that most of the more virulent posters would be as irresponsible and vicious if they knew that their identity was known by the editors of the Pilot.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
It's my understanding that changes are on the way. Other local newspapers have initiated forms of registration on their blogs, so there is no reason for the Pilot to avoid it. I know the editors are concerned about stifling what they view as a valid "view of the people", but much of the offending stuff is akin to graffiti painted on an electronic wall. Just as we frown on someone shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater, there are rules for every aspect of our lives. Participation in the electronic media will have them, too.
DON'T TRAMPLE CIVILITY IN DEBATES
I look forward to the changes that are in the wind for the Daily Pilot. Presently, it is our newspaper of record and our primary source for accurate, timely news of our area. The blog can be a wonderful tool through which our neighbors may be heard on important issues of the day. Civility should not be trampled in the process of voicing those views.