Who turned off the comments?

The Chronicle took the rare step of shutting down comments posted underneath the Jay Weinberger stories this weekend.

The ‘bizarre’ circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Weinberger attracted a great deal of attention. It is among the most well-read stories of the year on our site, and this news is the talk of the town.

Some of you noticed the comments cutoff, many of you didn’t and a few considered it a conspiracy.

You should know it was my decision alone. Not a single person suggested this move to me. I did it based on experience and out of a sense of decency. This fairly innocuous move was driven by the following concerns in order of priority: 

1) The comments were arriving at a rate too high to manage and were becoming a distraction to us working on developing news. The intensity and volume of people visiting the story went ballistic – elevating this concern. Staffing levels on the holiday weekend were a concern against the work we had before us.

2) Every now and then, a shot for human decency just has to be sounded. This will be a rare step, and comparing it to other stories and comments allowed is “apples and oranges.” I’ll accept all criticism and learn from it. I just thought, “The guy is being buried today under crazy circumstances few have even begun to understand. Timeout.”

3) We didn’t stop people from commenting on this topic in other parts of the site. It was my hope the inconvenience may cause someone to pause before being particularly insensitive. That didn’t work completely, but it did limit everyone’s exposure to the inane.

Is this some kind of precedent by the still-new editor?

Probably not. Every now and again, the human part of you takes over and you try to inject some decency into a forum. It may not have worked, but I tried.

Moving forward, functionality on these stories reopens today – along with some latitude.

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cdharrison
23
Points
cdharrison 09/08/09 - 03:06 pm
0
0
I believe you did the right

I believe you did the right thing. In fact, I sometimes wonder why the ability to comment exists anyhow. I agree that it adds a social aspect to the AC website, but few people actually add anything meaningful. Maybe its time to consider axing comments altogether?

The Big O
0
Points
The Big O 09/08/09 - 03:42 pm
0
0
So why aren't the comments

So why aren't the comments turned off to all stories describing murders, suicides, or deaths? Surely you can't view this as comparing apples to oranges?

youshouldknowbetter
0
Points
youshouldknowbetter 09/08/09 - 03:30 pm
0
0
I think that some of the

I think that some of the comments were in poor taste and out of line, BUT would you have done the same thing if Mr. Weinberger hadn't of been such a huge figure in the business community? 

His family spends a lot of money with your paper. I can't help but think for that reason you pulled the plug on the comments. 

There have been other stories on here, the shooting by the police officer in Wadley, GA comes to mind, where the comments got borderline out of control, but the comments were kept open. 

I can understand if you had a staffing problem due to the holiday, but it was as you said, among the most well-read stories of the year on our site". I don't think that cutting off the comments was the thing to do.

I didn't agree with many of the comments that were made concerning the family. I don't know all of the facts so I will reserve my comments until I do, but where do you go from here?

Where do you draw the line concerning future comments on news stories? My point is that I think you have opened a can of worms. You removed the comments from all of the Weinberger stories so in the future when family members or friends of those mentioned in a story complain about the comments are you going to remove them as well? 

I guess only the future will tell us what you will do.

 

Grasshopper
7
Points
Grasshopper 09/08/09 - 03:30 pm
0
0
I think it was a good

I think it was a good decision.

Mom of a gay child
0
Points
Mom of a gay child 09/08/09 - 03:33 pm
0
0
I think this was the decent

I think this was the decent thing to do for Mr. Weinberger's family. As I read the article on a daliy bases I sometimes wonder where decorum has gone it this world. It just bothers me how many people forget about that part of them that makes them human. A little empathy is worth more than anything money can buy. Thank you Mr. English for being human.

fewsupporter
0
Points
fewsupporter 09/08/09 - 03:33 pm
0
0
why dont we just call it

why dont we just call it like it is this guy was a thief and if this had been any other person it would have been said like that 

cdharrison
23
Points
cdharrison 09/08/09 - 03:35 pm
0
0
I think the Chronicle should

I think the Chronicle should removing commenting from every article it posts. Leave the discussions in the forums (or over here in the blogs) where they belong.

markmjtx
0
Points
markmjtx 09/08/09 - 03:40 pm
0
0
This will not be the first

This will not be the first time that you will be faced with this issue. Good luck.

markmjtx
0
Points
markmjtx 09/08/09 - 03:39 pm
0
0
I can understand why you did

I can understand why you did it. But people will remind you of this in the future.

Batman
18
Points
Batman 09/08/09 - 03:37 pm
0
0
Alan, You absolutely did the

Alan, You absolutely did the right and decent thing by temporaily shutting down the comments on this story.  All families in similar situations need the proper environment to mourn their loss. I appreciate your leadership.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 09/08/09 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Whether this was a right or

Whether this was a right or wrong decision, it was the paper's decision to make. This is a private business, and no outside influence except in the case of illegal activity should be involved in decisions as this. As for the comments, I think they add volumes to this community. Get rid of them and watch your hits plummet. Keep up the good work.

youshouldknowbetter
0
Points
youshouldknowbetter 09/08/09 - 03:42 pm
0
0
"All families in similar

"All families in similar situations need the proper environment to mourn their loss."

I agree that all families should, but the truth of the matter is that they don't. I don't see that it is "apples and oranges" to compare this story to others. 

What makes it different is that it was a well known business leader that advertises heavily in the Chronicle.

That is the truth. 

Batman
18
Points
Batman 09/08/09 - 03:52 pm
0
0
Hence the reason I said

Hence the reason I said "all" families. Perhaps all families will be afforded the same generosity in the future. I can only hope they will.

like-it-is
320
Points
like-it-is 09/08/09 - 04:01 pm
0
0
alan, Just stop all COMMENTS

alan, Just stop all COMMENTS Period. Just don"t put any RAVES OR RANTS in the paper. In this way, you don't have to worry abouts comments from anyone. it just reminds everyone how stupid some folks are out there

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 09/08/09 - 04:07 pm
0
0
Thank you for turning off

Thank you for turning off the comments in this case.  Maybe from now on, if comments are allowed under similar circumstances, people will think twice about what they say and not take the privilege for granted.  I think it was a good decision.

peachy1230
0
Points
peachy1230 09/08/09 - 04:08 pm
0
0
I don't think it is fair

I don't think it is fair journalism to just pick this one story to block the comments from. What about all the other thefts/murders/suicides that are in the paper every day... comments are never blocked from those stories... those people have children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers too, but you (A.C.) have never felt compelled to censor the newspaper before & never considered the feelings of the people in the stories you print or their families. It is biased and prejudicial for you (A.C.) to do it in this case of a prominent citizen, one whose business advertises in your newspaper. I think either all stories should be allowed comments or no stories at all should be allowed comments. I prefer that all stories be allowed comments.  You can't fairly and objectively pick & choose 1. It's not fair.

MartinezCitizen
24
Points
MartinezCitizen 09/08/09 - 04:13 pm
0
0
While you may have been well

While you may have been well intentioned, I think you have missed the point of all of the posts about this issue.  The main issue that I see is the perception that The Augusta Chronicle can be bought.  By closing down the comments on this particular story, you have brought raised eyebrows to every story that the Chronicle publishes.  Isn't the purpose of a newspaper to report the facts of events in a fair and balanced light?  I know this seems like an idealistic view, but by turning off the comments to the Weinberger story you have put every other story reported to scrutiny.  The thought will always be "I wonder if the Chronicle was paid off for this slant on the story."   While I agree that this is a business, it should still be run ethically. Unless every grieving family is given the same consideration or just the "pillars of the community", you must ask yourself if that was an ethical decision. 

 For you to want decency for the Weinberger family is admirable, but who will determine what is considered decent?  what standards will be used to determine if a comment is decent?

Alan English
6
Points
Alan English 09/08/09 - 04:14 pm
0
0
There are cases where

There are cases where comments have been productive,  improving a story or offering new angles to consider. Some comment threads go bad with no real hope of turning a corner. In most cases, comments are what they are. Anonymous threads aren't for everyone.    

peachy1230
0
Points
peachy1230 09/08/09 - 04:17 pm
0
0
You didn't sem concerned

You didn't sem concerned about blocking the comments from the article a few days ago about the murder/suicide of the mother/son. Where was your compassion for that family? It is not "apples & oranges".

S
0
Points
S 09/08/09 - 04:18 pm
0
0
You showed us just who you

You showed us just who you are.  If you have enough money going into ad dolloars to AC then your family can grieve in peace. We got it.  What thoughtfulness did you show the Tankersley Family? 

Fiat_Lux
15420
Points
Fiat_Lux 09/08/09 - 04:21 pm
0
0
Hard call, good decision. I

Hard call, good decision. I would like to see this done far more often when malevolent commenters begin to lose all sense of decorum and decency. The lack of basic civility can be appalling, especially when race or wealth become the focus. It doesn't do our community a bit of good to provide an essentialy open and largely unrefereed forum for such regressive and antisocial communication, and the Chronicle should be willing to curtail it whenever it rears its ugly head.

No one should ever be subjected to so much public venom and the kind of character assassination free-for-all  that is routine for some comment forums, especially when the target is deceased. No family should ever have to deal with that kind of callousness and hatefulness when they already are dealing with a devastating tragedy.

People like the Weinbergers have far too much dignity to respond to the drivel that has been posted about Jay. It is good that people with authority at the Chronicle have the wisdom and courage to say "enough is  enough".

The First Amendment allows the Chronicle to publish opinion, news and other verifiable information as it sees fit, but it does not obligate the Chronicle to publish online or anywhere else, abusive letters to the editor or abusive, hateful or inflamatory comments in a forum. I firmly believe that online comment forums should be monitored closely and comments screened routinely.

Kudos on your decision to take control of the awfulness when citizens show themselves to be savage. 

reneepm
0
Points
reneepm 09/08/09 - 04:23 pm
0
0
Thank you!  You showed that

Thank you!  You showed that you are honorable and a gentleman.  We are better than what I saw on some of those comments and you have set the example.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 09/08/09 - 04:24 pm
0
0
I sent you an email, asking

I sent you an email, asking what was going on. I AGREE with your handling of this. If you read my last comment, I felt like the vermin were flying out from under whatever rock they had been hiding. I was shocked at the disgusting things that were being said.  I understand that one of them was from his ex-wife no less. My only concern is that I would like to see a message from you, stating that this is being done, and the reason. I'm happy with the end result -- to shut up the pieces of human excrement that felt the need to inject venom into the open wounds of this family.

Fiat_Lux
15420
Points
Fiat_Lux 09/08/09 - 04:25 pm
0
0
I wish the Chronicle would

I wish the Chronicle would do like some news organs and screen all comments, posting only the ones that are cogent, reasonably readable and that actually contribute something to the public discourse.

pattym35
0
Points
pattym35 09/08/09 - 04:27 pm
0
0
It's unfortunate it's taken

It's unfortunate it's taken you this long to worry about 'decency' and the feelings of the family members.   Many families have been offended over the years and it takes the death of someone you like to realize how indecent things have gotten.  I applaud your decision - just don't approve of your timing, should've been done from day one!

0
Points
09/08/09 - 04:28 pm
0
0
I know you're the "new"

I know you're the "new" editor, and till now my opinion of you had been neutral.  After you took this action, however, I know the Chronicle has found the right man for the job.  

peachy1230
0
Points
peachy1230 09/08/09 - 04:31 pm
0
0
Alan, where did you go to

Alan, where did you go to journalism school? Isn't the first thing they teach you about  journalism is that it is supposed to be fair & non-biased & non-censored? (At least in the USA, maybe not in Communist China, Iran or North Korea). Weren't you in class the day the professor said you can't objectively show your prejudicial leaning toward a prominent member of the community, but not toward other races or classes of society? You are supposed to report the news fair & balanced in an objective manner. You are not supposed to censor what is printed in your paper. you are not supposed to show preferential treatment towards the prominent members of the community, especially the ones who provide advertising revenue to your paper. Is this what guided you in your ill-conceived decision? You have never shown deference in any past articles by blocking comments. You didn't seem to care about those families. Oh, I forgot, they didn't advertise in your paper & they were not well known in the community. Be fair or you will lose what few subscribers you have left, including me, a paying subscriber. Billy Morris, I can't believe you would agree with your editorial director in this decision he made. This has never been done before. This is not good business practice and this is a very bad precedent to set.

Rozzie2003
5
Points
Rozzie2003 09/08/09 - 04:33 pm
0
0
You did the right thing just

You did the right thing just as we told you about the  Sen.Kennedy cartoon, the Chronicle ran  the next after he had died. We will expect this to happen in all other simular situations. Hasve some heart for poor people too!

Alan English
6
Points
Alan English 09/08/09 - 04:33 pm
0
0
Hold on. More comments

Hold on. More comments coming in. Trying to read all the comments can be a full-time job. SPAM-like material can flood. People WITHOUT a real interest will lob material to see if it sticks. Other times, wonderful & thoughtful commentary balances it all. Hmmm.

peachy1230
0
Points
peachy1230 09/08/09 - 04:36 pm
0
0
The Andersons and

The Andersons and Tankersly's were grieving families under tragic circumstances also. However, where was your decency towards them just a day or 2 before your new found "decency" came up for the Weinbergers? There are numerous similar cases where I guess you had no decency because the comments flew loud and clear. Solution: don't block comments on any articles. It can't be done fairly or objectively.

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