Monday, January 22, 2007

Provocative Pilot Pronouncements

In recent months our excellent local newspaper of record, The Daily Pilot, has moved forward with their online edition, attempting to provide more real-time news and information to those of us who care to check their web site. Among the interesting features now available is the ability to post comments on most articles, columns and commentaries published online. This supplements their normal "question" posed to print readers to contemplate and recent results have been very enlightening. Online readers used their 100 words or less to express views in very clear terms - some of which would probably never have made the cut in the print edition.

For example, a teacher at a local Catholic school in Corona del Mar was arrested on campus for writing bad checks. He was snatched up by the Huntington Beach police in full view of students. Well, you'd have thought the sky was falling based on the responses by readers. At my last count there were 60 comments posted on this article, many of which were supportive of this crook - several posted by writers who appeared to be students. The debate bounced back and forth and I'm sure the editors of the Daily Pilot were all smiles.

In another case, an article about the boneheaded move by the New Majority on the city council last week to effectively cancel an already-established Youth in Government program generated some very heated debate. Nearly 30 comments appear following that article, many of which were posted by some of "the usual suspects", lapdogs of the New Majority, including Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever himself. He apparently found 100 words insufficient to enlighten us, so he posted back to back entries. He and the other apologists for the mayor and his majority twisted facts - as usual - and berated concerned citizens who wrote well-reasoned observations.

While I think a healthy debate on important issues is good for our community, and our local newspaper is an appropriate forum for such debate, I find myself wondering about the reaction to these vicious comments by the editors. I'm sure they wouldn't print some of them, so how do they justify publishing them online? If their goal is to demonstrate the intensity of debate on issues, they've done it. I'm not sure they needed to allow these exchanges to deteriorate to the level of a school yard shouting match, though. What do you think?