Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Indy | Star appeals order to ID anonymous poster

Attorneys for The Indianapolis Star told a state appeals court yesterday that giving up the name of an online commenter would be a slippery slope, comparing the need to protect a source to the work by the pioneering investigative journalists who uncovered Watergate.

The paper's appeal followed a Marion County judge's order last spring that the Star reveal the name of a commenter who claimed that a former Junior Achievement executive had mismanaged money.

Attorney Jan Carroll told the court that protecting the poster's identity was "no different than Deep Throat saying to Woodward and Bernstein, 'You need to follow the money,'" according to WRTV's account of yesterday's appeal hearing.

"The commenter said 'you need to see where the money is,'" Carroll told the court. "All journalistic organizations need help from the public to know where the other lines of information to follow." 


  1. Not to worry. We won't be getting anymore anonymous tips, valid or not, due to our new Facebook comment policy.

  2. Agreed, I'd like to hear the tapdancing when our lawyer asserts the importance of anonymous tipsters... and then is asked why their employer disagrees so much as to ban the opportunity from a large swath of the country.

  3. Haven't really followed this story. Did this 'tip' lead to an investigative story that exposed some wrongdoing in the community?

  4. Enough with the whining over Facebook. There are actual conversations happening on our sites now, not just disgusting diatribe by a bunch of miserable, half-witted cyberbullies. Legitimate tipsters have always been able to find us and they were never likely to post sensitive, important information in a story chat.

  5. Good for you, 9:52. At my site, about three posters are carrying the ball. So much for a robust conversation.

    And as a sidenote, at least two times a week my newspaper runs a story mentioning the drawbacks to Facebook, such as privacy settings or kids' grandparents getting scammed via the kids' Facebook page. And then we turn around and tell our readers how wonderful it is to chat via Facebook. Just sayin'.

  6. If the audience wanted actual conversations we would have thoughtful discussions in primetime instead of whatever crap MS-NBC and Fox News broadcasts with their hosts yelling at their guests.

    If we're in the audience delivery business - and prove to me that we're not - we should have focused on eyeballs. So we got rid of the stupidheads - even a higher quality audience can't overcome the lack of any engagement with the site.

    Reading all those assholes is what drives time on site. Just a few power commenters can really drive up the metrics. Water under the bridge now, I guess.

  7. Well said, 11:42.

  8. I'm surprised that the Star would consider someone making comments at the bottom of the story to be a confidential source. That's like saying that someone who shouts out about an alleged criminal act during a protest rally is a confidential source. Or maybe the shouting is done at a bar, because most online "discussions" resemble bar brawls more than anything else. That's a lot different from the Watergate investigation, during which reporters had to promise confidentiality to get information about wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. The Star shouldn't risk losing confidential source protections when they really matter in order to protect someone volunteering information at the bottom of a blog post.

  9. Actual conversations 9:52 AM?

    While that may be factually correct, the number of “actual conversations” and conversations overall are significantly down and that should greatly concern all as the bulk of commenters and the heavy page views they once created are gone, likely forever.

    Cincy’s recent change serves as added proof of it and more importantly, that little material improvement in tone, quality and intelligent debate has occurred. The minute few who still "engage" appear to be many of the same serial posters from before including one named Corneliussen who likely has more exposure in print and online than any Enquirer staffer.

    And anyone still clinging to the naïve belief that Facebook commenting will clean up “disgusting” comments need only read what Facebook posters had to say on WUSA 9’s story about Sidwell Friend’s Pearl Harbor Day Lunch to see how wrong they were about that and the decision to move to it overall.

  10. Anyone who doesn't see that any and all attempts to stop the horrible racist, sexist, ethnic, violent comments that were appearing regularly on our sites is a positive step just plain confuses me. Facebook is clearly an improvement and our readers have thanked us for it. If there's a better answer, bring it on. But if you think the previous unchecked comments drew the kind of time on site and traffic we need, you don't understand the business very well. Real customers and advertisers won't and don't support that. Quality time with intelligent, engaged readers is what we need, not hours and hours run up by lunatics who've figured out how to exploit our digital space to add a whiff of credibility to their insanity.

  11. 4:03 p.m. I'm curious how the readers have thanked you for it. We're still getting at least 10 online comments a day on our email list from disgusted customers who say they won't chat again since they dislike Facebook that much. Not one has thanked us.

  12. With all due respect 4:03, your comments demonstrate your limited understanding, well explaining your confusion now.

    It’s not that comments didn’t need to be cleaned up a bit; a minority did and still do. It’s that a company of Gannett’s scale (Matore’s word) chose Facebook, a company in which it has zero financial relationship with to do it (one far more sophisticated in going after ad dollars) when other, smaller peers like the WSJ accomplished it on their own.

    It’s also that Gannett chose to do it just months ahead of the rollout of paywalls the action of which alone provides better tools to address the minority who abuse the privilege of posting.

    You can also save the “readers have thanked us for it” as the ones who have pale to those who spoke out against it for numerous, valid reasons. And of the small lot who did thank you and who remain, even they’ll no doubt complain when they’re ranks are thinned even more by paywalls.

    That of course brings it back to this: audience. The smaller it gets - even if it doubtfully becomes more intelligent and engaged, the less attractive these sites become, exactly why bundled product sales began years ago.

    BTW, you obviously haven’t read comments on WUSA9’s story (http://tinyurl.com/cwwqmkw) as if you did, you’d see they’re far from improved through Facebook.

  13. 6:45 anyone who complains about having to join or use Facebook is either 14 or doesn't want to self identify period. This isn't a "Gannett Management sucks" issue which many posters here want it to be. Look at the personal attacks here. If Jim didn't make an effort to delete those posts this site would be a blood bath every hour of every day. The majority of social media adults
    use Facebook. Gannett selected it. It's time for you to let
    it go. By the way if an out if the closet bigot wants to
    post at WUSA 9 I am all for it. At least now I know who he or she is and I can make sure they are not part of my
    world. Can't do that with anonymous posts. I feel better, let the debate continue

  14. 7:50 pm The people you refer to must not care about security issues or if their personal data is mined.

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  17. @7:50 – All the excuses in the world won’t erase the reality that Gannett’s decision to move to Facebook Commenting alienated far more readers than it pleased as evidenced by the significant lack of comments these sites once enjoyed. Saying that you now know the names of posters who cross over the line and that they won’t be part of your world doesn’t address the issue for why this change was sold now does it.

    So, write what you will but customers have the final say on this and the silence of a majority who used to frequently post on Gannett sites who’ve changed is deafening.


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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