Sunday, May 13, 2007

Should the N&O ban Anons?

The Raleigh News & Observer’s Public Editor Ted Vaden, a professional journalist, has been a faithful N&O employee for more than twenty-five years. And judging by his Sunday columns, he's also a great admirer of the N&O.

In fact, Vaden’s such a great admirer of the N&O that many folks say his title should be N&O Public Defender. I'll use that title in this post and you can comment on my doing that.

Did you know Public Defender Vaden doesn’t like anonymous comments from readers, especially bloggers?

Defender Vaden wants the N&O to ban all such comments from its blogs, including his.

Vaden says the ban is necessary in order to improve the level or “tone” of discussion at N&O blogs.

But some people think Vaden’s rush to ban has more to do with Anons’ criticisms of Vaden for his many failures to identify and condemn on readers’ behalf the N&O’s often racially inflammatory, biased and sometimes downright false Duke lacrosse reporting, news commentary and editorializing.

Today, Vaden’s column is titled: “Readers on anonymous blog posts.” It contains twelve reader comments, most of which support the ban. I decided to respond to a few of them.

The reader comments are in italics.


"When people get behind a keyboard and feel they can write/ post/chat/e-mail without fear of identification, something awful happens and their inner voice -- normally covered up by layers of proper behavior taught through years of being a human being -- is made loud and obnoxious, similar to what happens when someone has too much to drink." -- Jim Metcalf, Cary.

Mr. Metcalf, some people anonymous “behind a keyboard” act the way you say, but so do some people who are known.

Some of the vilest things ever written have known authors; some serious and honorable writings were and are published anonymously.

Hitler was proud to be known as the author of Mein Kampf, while John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison published The Federalist Papers using, as I do, a pseudonym; in their case “Publicus.”

"I believe firmly that The N&O should allow anonymous postings. Freedom of expression and the full exchange of ideas trump identification. Many citizens, particularly those in the public sector, do not dare to exercise their freedom of speech in a newspaper or blog. Identification can lead to retribution." -- Anonymous.

You’re right, Anon. There are many public office holders who don’t say certain things lest what they say lead to retribution by the N&O and others.

Just think of the N&O’s vicious, racist treatment of the white Duke students on the Men’s 2006 lacrosse team. Those students never did anything to reduce the N&O’s circulation or advertising revenue. In fact, as members of a championship lacrosse team, they made news that helped the N&O do what it’s in business to do: sell papers and make money.

Considering how the N&O treated those Duke students who had done it no harm and very likely some good, can you imagine how the N&O treats people critical of it? Can you really blame people for wanting to remain anonymous?

"Anonymous blog comments are no better than graffiti, and are often as immature and irresponsible. The cure for both is the same: obliteration." -- David Thomas, Raleigh.

Mr. Thomas, during WW II a “V” chalked anonymously on a wall in Nazi occupied countries was a very common form of graffiti, which the Nazis did all they could to obliterate because the “V” was a sign of resistance and hope.

Suppose tomorrow you walked into a bathroom at the N&O, and you saw penciled on the wall the following piece of graffiti:

”I’m so ashamed of my N&O colleagues for withholding from the public and the rest of media for thirteen months the news that during the 3/24/06 interview, Crystal Mangum not only said Duke lacrosse players had raped her, but also said they raped the second dancer who, Mangum claimed, didn't report the rape for fear of losing her job.

Now, Mr. Thomas, Public Defender Vaden, Executive Editor for News Melanie Sill, Managing Editor John Drescher and the story reporters, Anne Blythe and Samiha Khanna, might all want to obliterate that piece of graffiti, but would you?

Folks, I may post in a few days responses to some of the other reader comments that appeared today in Defender Vaden’s column.


Anonymous said...

What does not seem to be addressed in the N&O article is the plain fact that ALL blog comments are essentially anonymous. There is no mechanism on the web to ensure the true identity of the ANY user.
Henry Higgins
22 Baker Street
London, England