Tagged with " Stefanik"
Feb 1, 2021 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Sad when the wackadoodles win: TU shuts citizen blogs

The decision by the Albany Times Union to shut down all its citizen blogs is regrettable – and totally understandable.

Trying to clean up, let alone keep up with, citizen blogs is an impossible task. A publisher who relies on the honor system to maintain civil online discourse will sooner or later be disappointed, and possibly sued.

When I was running The Saratogian newsroom, the advent of the internet brought exciting opportunities to broaden the newspaper’s role as a forum for community comments, discussion and information. It also brought headaches, giving voice to vile people and assorted wackadoodles.

We tried to pre-empt problems back then by blocking all comments on stories, such as tragic accidents, that, to our amazement, triggered hateful remarks. People easily circumvented procedures designed to prevent anonymous comments on stories or blogs.

The legal advice at the time was to avoid liability by not editing online comments — either use them as submitted or reject them in their entirety. That advice was later modified; editing online submissions need not increase the publisher’s liability.

In announcing the impending removal of all its community blogs, TU Editor Casey Seiler cited a normally innocuous blogger who last spring “spread the looniest conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19.” Alerted by a reader, the TU determined the blogger had failed to follow its hands-off honor system of maintaining civil discourse, and shut him down.

More recent was the brouhaha over a post on a TU-hosted blog that U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik and others interpreted as meanly mocking her for being childless. I saw it differently. I took the post as a tasteless and lame attempt at satire, criticizing Stefanik for not supporting access to affordable birth control and Planned Parenthood services. Either way, the TU removed the blog.

Next thing we know, all the TU-hosted citizen blogs – well over 50, by my rough count, on a wide range of topics – are being shut down at the end of this week.

That’s a shame. I share Seiler’s vision of blogs serving as what he calls the newspaper’s “digital town square.” They enhance the publication’s offerings beyond that paid staff can provide. Besides, most bloggers (at least on apolitical topics) have no problem with civility.

By the way, this isn’t censorship. The First Amendment prevents government from curtailing free speech and a free press. The owners of publishing platforms are not obliged to let anyone say or write whatever they wish. They do, however, have an ethical, and possibly legal, responsibility to manage that access. Unfortunately, it is too overwhelming and impractical for a publisher to monitor, never mind edit, all citizen submissions. Sad when the wackadoodles win.

Aug 21, 2019 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Elect people afraid of mass shootings, not of the NRA

Americans need to replace politicians who are more afraid of the National Rifle Association than they are of mass shootings.

Ninety percent of Americans (including NRA members), regardless of political persuasion, endorse the use of background checks for the purchase of any gun. The House of Representatives months ago approved two bi-partisan bills to do this.

Yet President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuse to bring them up for Senate debate, never mind a vote.

Trump and McConnell are not merely preventing passage of this citizen-supported legislation. They are also allowing politicians in the Senate to duck and hide from the public. (And bear in mind that although passed in the House, the bills were opposed by most House Republicans, including Elise Stefanik, one of this area’s representatives.)

The bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, apply checks that already exist for the sale of certain firearms. They do not apply to gifts among family members.

Universal background checks won’t eliminate all the gun violence. But they can’t hurt, and they might help. (Likewise, law enforcement leaders have said no reason exists for citizens to own military-style assault weapons. Yet Republican politicians lack the courage to speak up — except for one whose daughter was across the street from the Dayton shootings.)

These are not “slippery slopes” against the Second Amendment. Passage of common-sense public protections shouldn’t be such an uphill battle.

What can you do? Sign the petitions that are easy to find online. Share information. And help elect new representatives. Change will happen only when the people in office are changed.