30 October 2009

Syracuse.com: Making our city scarier, one post at a time

Dear Syracuse.com:
In regards to your newspaper’s website, would you do the world a favor by not including space for public comment (or at the very, very, least, provide some degree of moderation) on posts where you report the occurrence of crimes? On the increasingly rare occasions when your paper publishes crime details in a professional manner, I find it very troubling to see anonymous commenters speculating upon why the victim deserved to be have a crime committed against them (Too black? Too poor? Too queer? Too female?), contemplating future crimes against other supposedly deserving victims, and generally joking about how incredibly awesome they think rape, assault, and murder are. Today’s example comes from the online version of your article “Court papers: Vicious dog used to force woman to have sex with Syracuse man.” I know the First Amendment gives people the right to voice their opinions, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the job of journalists to silently observe, or worse yet, foment hate speech. I’m not sure what you expected to achieve by allowing the public to comment on police and court reports. What you have managed to accomplish is to increase the shame and terror that crime victims feel, as well as making Syracuse feel like an even more threatening and unwelcoming place. Seriously—I’d consider patronizing any of your many sponsors, but I’m terrified that I may run into some of your readers. Well done.
Addendum: The Post-Standard's prompt response: "In every story there is a link that says "Inappropriate? Alert us." Please use that and fill out the necessary information every time you see something inappropriate. It will go directly to our Interactivity Group who evaluates comments and determines whether they should be deleted, and if the user needs to be blocked." This is about what I expected. Of course, the odds of me having the time and interest to personally help moderate every thread on Syracuse.com is about the same as getting a productive response to: 'a woman in Syracuse was raped. Discuss anonymously."