Monday, January 28, 2008

Interesting Op-Ed

In the Times Standard The anonymity rules
John Driscoll raises some good points.

"Unfortunately, however, anonymity rules. That means that anyone can say anything and suffer no consequence. That's why every thread quickly devolves into insults and badgering. If there are 100 comments on a story, perhaps five are salient. To find them, you must swim the polluted waters of the entire thread.

If you are easily insulted or insecure, and are the subject of these rants, you could take a bruising from these unidentified thugs. Those of us in the news business are too calloused to be offended, but our hope for an improving society suffers terrible blows."


"...Anonymity is important in some cases. Revealing important information about something wrong that puts your job or your life at risk is one such instance. Airing a particularly controversial political stance that may come with grave consequences is another...."

It's certainly not the first time it's been discussed - on our local blogs - on Daily Kos, there have even been suggestions for a Bloggers Code of Conduct. including the suggestion that you attach an "anything goes" badge for sites that want to warn possible commenters that they are entering a free-for-all zone. The text to accompany that badge might go something like this: This is an open, uncensored forum. We are not responsible for the comments of any poster, and when discussions get heated, crude language, insults and other "off color" comments may be encountered. Participate in this site at your own risk. And the follow up to that discussion

"Mr. (Tim) O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. "That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech," he said. "Free speech is enhanced by civility."

What do you think?

16 comments:

  1. I think Driscoll has a good point. The comments on the Times Standard blogs are godawful. Sometimes the comments are truly shocking and hurtful.

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  2. Rose, I don't understand why it is necessary to be rude to discuss something. In fact if someone is outright disgusting, I find it difficult to sort the sense of what they say from the trash. And what's more I usually don't try. Though I should.

    I prefer a moderated blog. Disagreements should be civil but better uncivil than not at all.

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  3. I think some bloggers take themselves too seriously. For many of us, it is a hobby.

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  4. Well. admittedly, I take mine seriously. the subject matter is nothing to make jokes about - except when Gallegos decided he was GI Joe. When things happen like the child abuse case last week, I am reminded just how serious it is.

    But I look forward to the day when I can set it aside and blog about gardening and the like.

    Welcome Kym. You've got a great blog going.

    I decided to keep mine unmoderated, come what may, in exchange for keeping the door open to all points of view. There are times when I regret my decision not to censor posts, but so far it is working out ok.

    I do think the papers would be justified to require real names, addresses and phone numbers for comments, just like they do for Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor. They are, after all, a permanent record of our time, and the inaccurate bizarre rantings of some anonymous posters aren't exactly worth preserving. Blogs are a different animal.

    Why do you think so many people are afraid to sign their name?

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  5. Being the recipient of many negative posts on here I can still tell you Rose that I'd much prefer the unmoderated thing.Don't squelch free speech!!
    And Rose remember that even though blogs tend to be well not totally reliable for info,they CAN be,and that is what I think newspapers and editors and such fear.
    And it's ridiculous that they do that.Actually,I've thought for some time that blogs could enhance journalism.
    Let's say that a blogger wants to get to the bottom of the Falor fiasco,the blogger takes his/her journalistic instinct to asking those behind the decision making scene some questions but is refused answer upon answer due to one's "obligation" to only answer questions from a certified reporter.The blogger can then use their outlet to expose the unwillingness to being open to the public,if nothing else.Any reporter than can use that as a crutch and truly investigate why it is important for one to remain silent,and if that is truly applicable.
    Sounds convoluted I know,but it's the best scenario I could come up with in a minute.But my point is that it's lame for journalists to continue to attack blogging,because they simply have no need to,they just need to evolve.

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  6. I don't get the feeling that the journalists fear the blogs, or hate them - in fact the opposite seems to be true - they are intrigued, drawn in, and they all either have one or plan to start one.

    I think they do recognize the value as far as information go because they see people spilling out information that they could not get in an interview, and sometimes that info may set them on the trail of a story.

    That said, I think they see the nastiness and are horrified, sometimes they may see the people who have just read about themselves or a loved on on the blogs and see the devastation that results.

    With regards to the Falor thing - there isn't much out there because most of what happened happened in closed session as personnel matters and cannot be discussed. Alot of speculation, but...

    All that said - we all need to remember that they still have the burden of fact checking, interviews with all parties involved, trying to stay unbiased - lots of hard work, while most of us play at this. We have no accountability. They do.

    And the papers here have about 23,000 readers. We have a miniscule fraction of that.

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  7. Oh - and i understand what you mean about choosing to allow free speech even if it means we take some shitty comments. You and I stand together on that.

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  8. the falor incident was going to get ugly, had it gotten out in public. she made unwanted sexual advances on a female staffer and with threats of a harrassment lawsuit against the county,

    she pulled out other items that had they been made public would have made things even messier.

    it cost the county a whole lot more just to pay her off and make her go away

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  9. First of all - you should be VERY, VERY careful saying something like that - TRUTH is very important, even on the blogs.

    There are alot of rumors out there - and that is a new one on me. People in County Counsel's Office have been talking alot (way too much really), and there is alot that is known that has nothing to do with the Board or personnel matters, and your theory there, doesn't match anything I have heard.

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  10. Rose,

    As part of the ongoing discussion about deleting comments, I'd like to talk about that last one by anonymous 9:22. If a name (instead of anonymous) had been attached to it, I would have left it on my blog even though there is no confirming details.

    But as the person isn't willing to attach their name, the comment becomes gossip to me and I would delete it. I probably would make a note in the comments explaining what I had done and why, offering anonymous a chance to repost with a name.

    Its scary to be upfront about who you are and what you believe but its even scarier to have anonymous mudslinging.

    In a comment on the TS article about blogs, someone said that because of the consequences of speaking out where so many people think of themselves as big fish in a little pond it can be very dangerous to have an opposing viewpoint. I sympathize and support anonymous comments (especially since Blogger makes the whole comment thing such a pain) but, when making accusations like this, there should be someone willing to stand behind their statements.

    Nasty gossip can ruin someone's reputation and livelihood. As bloggers, I believe, we have a responsibility to minimize the damage to someone's reputation while maximizing the good to our community. I think that means holding commentators to some level of responsibility for what they say.

    I think this is going to be an area of concern for all us bloggers for a long time as we struggle to reach a consensus on what we are morally responsible for.

    I know it bugs me and I don't even write controversial posts.

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  11. I have been and am considering deleting that comment. BUT - this is an issue that is festering out there, because people don't have very much information, and no facts to go on, they are spinning on it - and this is the result.

    Some people say I obsess about Gallegos/Salzman. And there's some truth to that. But there are many others who obsess about their particular issue - and this is one.

    I do find it hilarious when the heraldo-ites call me obsessive when they have been focused on their sorry issue for 15 years, and have added new obsessions like Arkley and Home Depot as they go.

    Anyway, like I said, there are plenty of rumors out there, this one just happens to be particularly nasty and vicious. It also, as far as I can determine, has no basis in fact.

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  12. Figure out yet who she is yet? Heraldo?

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  13. 1/29 at 9:22 impresses me as someone with very sour grapes who is too chicken shit for words. Sounds like they are desperate in trying to smear someone without anything to back it up. That they pulled these allegations out of their arses only show how truly despicable they are. I believe in anon blogging, but this is way too shitty for words.

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  14. Who is Heraldo today? Did you notice a switch earlier in the week? Gentle reader.

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  15. Rose,
    Kym stated, “Nasty gossip can ruin someone's reputation and livelihood.” A truer statement could not have been made, especially in the case of “anonymous, 1/29/08 9:22 PM.” That was an outrageous lie anonymous posted, because anyone who had even the briefest acquaintance with Ms. Falor would recognize that honesty was her hallmark and good will toward our community was absolute. Furthermore, whoever “anonymous” is, one might be able to guess from the information revealed in one of the most tightly guarded county secrets in history, that the author of that irresponsible lie is either an “insider” or acquainted with information to which only an insider would have access. In either case, the author was irresponsible and malicious to plant such a rumor on a public blog. Anonymous’ statement follows an equally outrageous and irresponsible Grand Jury report.
    Here are some facts:
    · The County Counsel’s office has between 16 and 18 people in it.
    · The Assistant County Counsel reviews Grand Jury reports before they are published.
    · Upward promotion in the County Counsel’s office could occur once Falor either retired, resigned, or was not reinstated once her contract ran out.
    · The Grand Jury report of 2006-2007 was an incomplete report. It was irresponsible that any Assistant County Counsel allowed an incomplete, personally damaging report to be made public rather than recommending to the Grand Jury that it should wait until all of the evidence were in and the report were complete before releasing it or any “findings” for the public to read.
    · By its own admission, the Grand Jury interviewed only two of the members of the County Counsel’s office. What about its doing a complete investigation and interviewing every member of the County Counsel’s office? I am certain there would be another conclusion. In an investigation of this importance, one that could (and did) ruin a person’s reputation, wouldn’t any person in Ms. Falor’s position want all witnesses to be interviewed rather than just a few? How is justice served by releasing a half-complete, half-baked report with misleading statements and false conclusions? Where is justice served by giving “part” of an incomplete investigation for the public to puzzle about?
    · The Grand Jury Report stated, “There was considerable written evidence …to the effect that Ms. Falor’s job performance had been less than satisfactory for several years.” This is patently false. Each year until January, 2007, the County Counsel received laud from the BOS. Through the CA Public Records Act, one could petition the county for accurate information, which I am sure anonymous 9:22 PM did not do.
    · The settlement in the Falor matter was just that, a settlement, meaning that the original claim would have been much higher had it gone to trial.
    · Unless the BOS had something to hide, something they did not want out in public, they never would have “settled” and just let the contract run out in five months, saving the county over $200,000 according to the Grand Jury’s own report. THAT “something” is what the Grand Jury needs to explore, but hasn’t. The mere fact that the BOS settled (quickly and very secretly) points to something that needs to be looked into.
    There are other questions that need to be considered in the Falor case.
    · Was Ms. Falor even called before the Grand Jury to answer questions in her own defense? I am not sure of this, but I believe it did not happen. Otherwise, it would have appeared in the Grand Jury’s illegitimate “report.”
    · Who stood to profit with Falor gone? All those who would be promoted, perhaps? Those who were passed over for promotion when she was hired, perhaps? The person who “approved” an incomplete Grand Jury report to be made public, perhaps?
    · Could it be that Falor did have something on the BOS that would warrant a loyal, career civil servant to take the almost unthinkable step to sue her employers? Smart people do not make charges without evidence, especially smart attorneys, nor do responsible civic leaders (BOS) acknowledge error by compensating a plaintiff if there is no basis for the compensation, especially if the contract of the plaintiff were merely to expire within five months. That the BOS settled “secretly and with no explanation” lends credence to their having something to hide.
    · What would motivate “anonymous” to publish such an excoriating lie, one that would strike an emotional nerve in ill-informed readers’ minds? Perhaps the author wanted to continue the character assignation that began with the Grand Jury’s “incomplete” investigation report, a report that was probably approved by the very person who replaced Falor. If this is so, and if anonymous’ information comes from within the office of the County Counsel, then the Grand Jury owes it to the community to investigate the inner workings of the County Counsel’s Office and all who work there.
    There are so many questions surrounding the Falor case that causes it to smell
    like a cover-up and a conspiracy. Who initiated the initial movement to remove Ms. Falor from her office? Was it a member of the BOS? If so, who an why? According to records, Ms. Falor won all the cases she represented for the county but one. Are there special interests involved? Why was the Assistant County Counsel given only a temporary promotion? Does the BOS have another attorney in mind for the job? One it might have more influence over? There are just too many questions involved with this “incomplete report” that the whole Falor issue warrants a genuine investigation by the Grand Jury, or by an outside investigating team if the Grand Jury is too frightened or incompetent to perform its sworn duty, namely to make complete and thorough investigations into citizens’ complaints, not just partial, incomplete, and highly flawed investigations which produce damaging and false conclusions.

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  16. I think that is worth making it a post of its own. I'll do that.

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