Monday, October 16, 2006
Free New Mexican Comments
The Free New Mexican Web Site recently stopped allowing comments on its news story's at their web site. I have to admit that I read the comments daily and sometimes on selective story's I would comment myself. In fact it was the Free New Mexican web site which led me to Steve Terrell's Blog which then led me to Julia Goldberg's blog and eventually led me to begin a blog of my own.
According to the Free New Mexican web editor there were many inappropriate comments about the recent violent assault and battery of Paige McKenzie, John Dendahl's spokeswoman. The upper management decided to stop all commenting until changes were made. The comments often resulted in what I would call very zealous free speech and while sometimes hateful and untruthful comments were made, for the most part a free thinking reasonable person could pick there way through the motivations for mean spirited comments. During the June Primary Elections many candidates, myself included were the recipient of mean spirited and untruthful comments. You would think that I would be opposed to the comments because of this but I actually blew off the extreme comments or responded to them with the truth. The good thing about the comment section is that it allowed me to see what citizens both normal citizens and the extremists thought about news stories that involved the Sheriff's Office or me personally. It was like taking a poll on each news story that involved me without having to pay for it.
The New Mexican is going to retool the comment rules and should be restarting the comments again soon. The one thing I did not like about the new rules is that the New Mexican will only choose certain news stories to allow comments on and only those stories during certain hours will have comments. It should be fairly easy for web editors to figure out which stories people will want to comment on, but will it become censorship? Will certain stories not be chosen because they are likely to attract more heated debate? Or will stories that are likely to attract comments which differ from the Editors or Newspapers point of view not be chosen as stories which comments are allowed in order to tow the papers editorial line? Only time will tell.
I have no doubt that the comments will be a lot more tame and maybe not as amusing to read. On the other hand I do know that some people who were not as used to the negative comments being said about them as I am were hurt by the comments. I remember during certain deaths that very hurtful things were said about the deceased and I know this had to be very hurtful to the family members. Things often get extreme before the pendulum swings back to somewhere in the middle. While I am very opposed to limiting free speech I do have a part of me that believes that things probably were getting out of hand on certain stories. The New Mexican is after all a business and cannot afford to allow things to get too far out of hand on their website. Steve Terrell had a good comment on his blog. If you want completely unrestricted free speech you can always start your own blog.