Tag Archives: access

Access and Issues

30 Sep

When you grant access to the Buffalo News to write a puff piece about Cathy Paladino and Carl’s 10-year old child by another woman, not his wife:

and when you grant access to the New York Post to write a similar puff piece about the same subjects:

Then you can’t complain if the “kid” is made an issue in the campaign. And you can’t rightly complain if the press wants to get the other woman’s side of the story. You can’t sit down with Andrea Peyser and discuss the whole thing over a “meatball hero”, and explain how your values prevented you from suggesting abortion, but somehow permitted a decade’s worth of deception and silence to your wife.

Just saying, you can’t have it three different ways.

The Buffalo News’ Problems Must Be All Fixed, Now

26 Jun

Donn Esmonde somewhat needlessly picked up where Margaret Sullivan left off last week with respect to the Buffalo News deciding now to treat online reader comments similarly to letters to the editor, with real, verified names. Esmonde pats the Buffalo News on the back for getting rid of what were oftentimes truly awful, reprehensible comments.

I’m sure it took many hours for people at the News to police and delete racist or defamatory comments. Needlessly.

Anyone commenting after an online story—or commenting on another comment—has to use his or her name, verifiable with a phone number. No more hiding behind “MailGuy272”, “NYCGal” or other on-screen masks. Everybody stands behind their words. And everyone has to live with the reactions, criticisms and judgments of other folks in the online forum.

The Wild West days of cyberassaults are over. Hallelujah!

The ugliness wrought by the no-holds-barred forum bothered me and a lot of my colleagues. It upset people whose names appeared in articles and were unfairly attacked. Readers I heard from were disgusted by descents into gutter-level discourse.

All columnists and reporters at this newspaper puts their name behind their words. I think it is only fair that anyone reacting to their writing does the same.

Time and again, I have seen anonymity— whether in a blog or a letter or a phone call—bring out the worst in human nature. When someone calls and starts pounding on me for something I write, I ask for a name. If I do not get it, the conversation is over. If I do, the conversation— nearly every time—rises to a higher level.

Well, who the hell asked the Buffalo News to permit comments on regular News stories in the first place? The New York Times doesn’t allow you to post comments to stories that appear in the paper – only to some stories, and some posts on its various blogs, like City Room. Instead, the Times has a bar across the top where it’s set up its own micro-social-networking site called TimesPeople, enabling you to recommend stories to people you’ve friended there, and also to post links to stories with your comments to Twitter, Facebook, and other existing social networking platforms. (You can follow me on TimesPeople here.)

In addition, every single comment posted to City Room and other Times Blogs has gone through pre-moderation. While the Times doesn’t require real names, it vets every comment before it’s seen by others.

In other words, the Buffalo News is doing it wrong.

Is the News truly shocked that people cloaked in anonymity will say stupid things? Does the News really think that slapping a commenting system to its online presence makes all done its leap into the 21st century?

No one asked for, nor needs, the ability to post a comment to the News’ site about routine News stories. Columns and opinion pieces? Sure, that would make sense, since people might want to express divergent opinions. And in those cases, the news can moderate each comment prior to posting.

The main point gets somewhat lost amidst Esmonde’s wordy sanctimony, but he calls out anonymity as the main culprit. It can be summed up as: those internet people!

Anonymity, pseudonyms, noms de plume – they’re all longstanding traditions in internet discussions, going way back to the free-wheeling days of usenet newsgroups. It moved on to blogs where writers assumed online identities like “Atrios”, “Calpundit”, “Kos”, “Allahpundit”, and reader/commenters did the same.

The reasons for anonymity? Yes, they allowed people to say things they may not otherwise dare say – but while that lets racist morons write racist garbage, it also allows insiders, officials, involved parties to provide important and sometimes delicate insight into issues that they may not feel free to provide if they had to use their real names. It’s happened quite often on my blog and others.

The Buffalo News presumably has no prohibition against its journalists providing anonymity to sources for stories. In fact, it does so quite routinely, as do all responsible journalists. Yet that practice runs the risk that stories sometimes won’t get pursued to their fullest extent so that the writers can preserve and protect their sources, and access to them.

It’s so patently evident that the Buffalo News has absolutely no clue how to manage its online presence. It’s lost many top-notch, veteran journalists over the past several years through buyouts and early retirement. Its circulation is down, and its longtime monopoly over civic information, opinion, and discussion has long gone. The News has no plan or strategy for survival in a world where it’s forced to compete not just with one other paper, but with slews of internet sites devoted to news and ideas in the WNY region. It tries to do what the blogs and social media sites do, but for the most part it’s clear that they’re doing it in a slapdash manner – it’s an afterthought. I’m told that the sports blogs at the News are quite excellent, but on the political news side the only one that has any relevance or influence is Jim Heaney’s Outrages & Insights, which has been on hiatus for a few months due to a tragic accident.

And because Heaney expresses opinion along with his information on his blog, it makes perfect sense to permit comments there.

If it hasn’t already happened, the day will come soon where more people will obtain news about Buffalo and WNY on a device, rather than through reading a newspaper. The iPad alone should be a massive wake-up call for newspapers throughout the country.

The Buffalo News loves anonymity, except when it’s employed by the masses. The Buffalo News has to come to peace with the fact that the internet exists, and that it operates differently from the Newspaper business, and it needs to do more adapting, and less grampa-doesn’t-like-the-rock-and-roll-music.