Friday, August 19, 2011

Comments, and my challenges in policing them

You'll likely see versions of the following note on a regular basis. I'm publishing it here, to give it the widest possible audience. 

This addresses readers' very legitimate complaints in this thread about inappropriate comments on Indianapolis Star Publisher Karen Crotchfelt. But it applies generally to all comments on Gannett Blog.

The Blogger software platform I use doesn't allow me to build an exceptions list, which would block comments that include specific words. And even if that option were available, I'm not going to block all posts that include certain names; that would eliminate legitimate ones.

I will do my best to remove any inappropriate comment as quickly as possible. These include making fun of people's appearance and -- in the case of the Star's publisher -- their name.

Sometimes, there are lags between when comments are posted, and when I'm back online to take them down; I'm not here 24/7. Other times, I miss inappropriate comments entirely. Much the same happens at every Gannett website -- including, ironically in this case, at the Star itself.

For example: On Dec. 22, the Star reported news of the paper's just-appointed publisher. Among the comments posted:
  • "The name makes me think of TSA screening at the airport."
  • "There's a name you don't want to Google Image Search without turning on the Safe Search feature."
I checked that story just moments ago, and those comments are still there -- eight months after they were posted, and five days after I first pointed to them in a comment of my own.

If the Star and its more than 500 employees can't keep up, you can imagine the challenge I face.

[Updated on Oct. 9, 2011: Those two comments are still on the Star's website.]

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Well said.

  2. Tough shit, Jim. You are always roasting GCI and its execs for failing to do what's right, saying that because it's hard is no excuse. You created this place. Now saying that it's too hard to do it right doesn't wash. Do it right, or fold the tent.

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  4. Hey 8:33, if Jim's gonna fold the tent Gannett's gonna have to fold the tent too. Jim does a much better job of monitoring and moderating the comments on this site than Gannett does of monitoring and moderating the comments on their sites. If you don't like the way this site is run you don't have to visit.

    Jim, I think you're doing a good job of taking down those comments. The real problem isn't that you're not here enough to moderate things. The real problem is that some people are just a$$holes.

  5. If you think the comments here are bad, you should hear what's said about Gannett are my site! You couldn't print (post) them.

  6. More excuses from the lemming troll gang. 8:33 has it right.

    I don't want to hear excuses, Jim. I want to hear solutions. This post is just an excuse.

    So, we'll have to police for you. The only way we see of getting the point across to you is to make the same comments about you and your crew every time something inappropriate is posted.

    This plan starts ASAP.

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  9. That's great reading, 11:47. At the end of the day, do you sit around with your best pal and tell him how you stuck it to a guy you never met and the awesome put down you've got planned for tomorrow?

    Seriously? Who the hell wakes up in the morning and makes their plan for the day getting into name-calling duels with other anonymous people?

  10. I'm 11:53, and I'm not a troll. I'm not even a Gannett employee any longer, thankfully. But this is an industry I love passionately and always have. Nor am I whining, which I find deplorable. Fact is, you're asking ONE man to do what an entire STAFF cannot do, to monitor this blog 24/7, with little-to-no pay! I, for one, am tired of the constant name calling. Reporters vs. copywriters, etc (they are BOTH necessary). And I'm tired of the name calling on Jim as well. But at times, there's great information to be gleaned from this blog, to put to use, or non-use, in many other newspaper/media companies. By the way, name calling is not criticism in my book. If you want to actually criticize me, feel free, that's what brought me where I am today, and I welcome it. And people who disagree with people are also wonderful, but again, the name calling just isn't necessary.

  11. Take it from someone who reads a LOT of copy, all those anti-Jim posts above are from the same person.

    Seriously, that's just pathetic. Nice try, though.

  12. In the interest of civility, I'd love to see any and all posts with name-calling deleted.

    If you can't make your point without calling total strangers on an Internet board "idiot," "moron," "stupid" and the ever-mystifying "lemming troll," then you most likely don't have a point to make.

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  16. Jim, you idiot. You call for civility, and say its too difficult to police comments -- and then you REPOST the Crotchfelt insults?? You couldn't have simply made a generic reference to them?

    the other simple solution is to moderate comments before they appear.


  17. OK children, does anyone have anything to say that might be constructive to the discussion?

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  19. This coming from Jim the guy who posted a note intimating an affair between twosenior leaders. Yep, he has a tough job policing his own blog.

    Best laugh I had all day.

  20. Jim: These disruptions obviously come from one nut (or maybe a couple), but nuts just the same.

    It's one thing to hate this blog, to criticize it or whatever, and those are fair comments. This blog is far from perfect.

    But for this idiot to just be spamming the blog whenever he gets the chance shows this guy's low level of engagement with life in general -- with his co-workers, with his friends, with his family. Kind of like wearing a T-shirt that says, "I'm a loser."

    Do not hesitate to just wipe his stuff away. We all understand what's happening (a social deficient in our midst), so delete delete delete.

    But you also need to find ways to prevent this kind of climate. I do believe your lax behavior in allowing a lot of personal slurs sends a signal that anything goes.

    It is not a very mature environment and I do think you have some responsibility for what has happened.

    Not saying people can't be angry. But the level of rhetoric has obviously attracted even stupider fish -- like the spamming nut.

    Please try to fix things.

  21. It has now been nine hours since I posted this note.

    I just checked the Star's website: Those two comments are still up.

    My conclusion: If Crotchfelt's own paper doesn't have a problem with remarks like those, I don't see why anyone here should object, either.

  22. by that explanation of standards and quality, jim, you are abandoning any sense of being in control of your own blog. You're really going to use the "But they do it too" defense? Sounds like a 6 year old whining.

  23. I love it when you get your panties in a wad. Jim's new mantra: Gannett - what's good enough for them is good enough for me! Jim, with that brilliant bit of logic, what's this blog's reason for being?

  24. That's fine for context, Jim, but to say the crappy slurs routinely posted here are OK is really distressing.

    This should be a sharp and edgy chronicle of a company in crisis, not a playpen for insults. Really disappointed that you think making 'crotch' jokes is fine.

    Its not like you have other things going on. Take control of the blog. My monetary contributions are stopping until you take a new tack.

  25. Dear 11:47 a.m.

    Re: Troll

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  26. Hey Jim: It's your blog. You do what you like. If some people like to come over and crap in your living room, that's their problem.

    Your readers are smart enough to know that corporate provocateurs shill around here in a feeble attempt to derail conversations.

    I think you should keep all the comments from the poo-flinging monkey trolls, though.

    It all reminds me of what my Nana used to say:

    May those that love us, love us.
    And those that don’t love us,
    May God turn their hearts.
    And if he doesn’t turn their hearts,
    May he turn their ankles,
    So we’ll know them by their limping.

  27. I can't believe you're using the "they're doing it, too," defense.

    I'm not going to defend you anymore, nor will I send you five bucks here, five bucks there. Done.

    Have a higher standard. Geez.

  28. If this woman was doing a good job and respectee, people wouldnt be making fun of her name. In a company that marginalizes everyone but the chosen few, this is a sad reminder of how the little guy fights back.

  29. Yes, VERY 'little guys.'

    That's not fighting back. Its being a child.

  30. Jim: You do an excellent job. Unfortunately, we all have to deal with those who sink into the sewer with comments. As long as you continue your efforts it will be fine.

  31. My last comment was in response to 1:58's.

    Regarding 5:14's comment: "Really disappointed that you think making 'crotch' jokes is fine."

    I suggest you re-read my post, top to bottom. It appears you missed this paragraph: "I will do my best to remove any inappropriate comment as quickly as possible. These include making fun of people's appearance and -- in the case of the Star's publisher -- their name."

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  34. 6:11 PM I don't think Jim is saying if it is good enough for Gannett, it is good enough for me. He's saying that he will (and does) remove those kind of comments as soon as he is aware of them. Gannett (Indy website) doesn't even do that -- they leave the nasty comments about their own publisher's name up indefinitely. Jim can't be expected to watch the blog 24/7, that's just crazy. He's got to eat, sleep and relax each day just like most of us.

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  36. 10:43, Funny, because I use "Lemming Troll" as a great term for people who defend Gannett because you can't think independently. You defend the company no matter what no matter how wrong they are. Pathetic, really. It's quite the conundrum. Will the really "Lemming Troll" please stand up?

  37. Jim, you could potentially switch to another platform and leave this Blogspot page as an archive of old posts.

    Self-hosted WordPress would probably be your best option, as there are options about for comment moderation by default and even more flexibility from community-supported plugins.

    The downside would be hosting fees and a slight learning curve in setting it all up, but low-cost hosts like Dreamhost can help you through it.

  38. 6:25 here. I am not defending the name calling. Im sorry for my half ass attempt to rationalize it.

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Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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