I'm back! And a touch annoyed. I actually almost blogged about the following topic while I was away, although, before departing on my trip I made a vow to myself to do as little work as possible so as to relax.
The source of my irritation came in the form of the Bee's comment section which should come as little surprise seeing as how the Bee's comment section can be pretty dang annoying. Here's my specific beef....
Last week the Bee reported on my friend and colleague Kim Curry-Evans's decision to step down from her post both as director of 40 Acres Gallery as well as from the mayor's recently formed art panel. This information in itself was dismaying given that I have great respect for Kim and the contribution she has made to our local art community. I also know that she relocated from Arizona to take her position with 40 Acres so it will be hard to know whether or not she will stay in Sac.
After reading the Bee's coverage of this news item I began following the comments on the story and that's when I got pissed. Of the 140+ comments on the article close to %80 of the negative comments were written by folks who admit to not knowing Kim or being unfamiliar with her gallery. Surprisingly, that didn't stop many of them from criticizing her both personally and professionally going so far as to speculate on her sexual orientation in some cases.
It blows my mind that the Bee publishes these comments. While riding in the car together for untold hours the Ol' Man and I discussed this issue at some length and determined the following about the Bee's comment section:
A. In an informal way the comments function as letters to the editor which could be okay except(!)....
B. Unlike letters to the editor which feature the name of the author these comments are written anonymously. As we all know from reading blogs the ability to post anon brings out the worst in people.
C. The Bee's disclaimer at the top of the comments section suggests that a moderator weeds out offensive comments for hate speech etc, however, I noticed several that shouldn't have made it past this moderation including one where the mayor was referenced as "Toothy McDumbell." There is, however, a feature where one can go in and flag comments for the types of things the Bee claims to moderate. Is the moderation they speak of supposed to come in the form of reader objections? Are these comments now self-legislated?
D. Furthermore in the moderation of these comments - if they are in fact moderated - why aren't those which admit to a lack of familiarity with the subject deleted? What relevance does a comment made by someone unaware of the article's subject have? In that regard the Bee is simply publishing a warrantless insult.
E. I've seen these insensitive comments follow both upbeat and serious articles alike. A few years ago I read a piece about a guy who collects picture frames which I found pretty interesting and the comments that followed critiqued the man's sanity in a pretty cruel manner. Sadly, the link to that article has expired.
While I have complained about the Bee's comments before this is the first time I've seen someone I know talked about in this way. It goes without saying that these comments are undeserved and I have to say that the result of comments like these would make one reluctant to receive press from the ol' Bee.