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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Commenting Rules for The Cincinnati Beacon

Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of here.

Effective immediately, the following rules will be enforced as it pertains to comments here at The Cincinnati Beacon.  Recently, an onslaught of flaming trolls have seen fit derail the threads, reducing them to nothing more than absurd insult sessions.  I admit that, as administrators, some of us have succumbed to the temptation and engaged in mudslinging, too—and so these rules apply to us as well as to our guests.  At the end of the day, however, we hope that these rules will raise the level of discourse on the site, and that they will encourage us to pursue the truth through debate.

Commenting rules

1.  Your comment should pertain to the subject of the article to which it is attached.  Off-topic comments are subject to deletion.

2.  Your comments should not attack the person.  Make argumentative points, but there is no reason to insult anyone while making a point.  Insults subject your comment to deletion.

3.  No racial slurs.  Language that is deemed racially offensive will subject your comment to deletion.

4.  Comments which just make personal attacks will be deleted.

5.  Do feel free to disagree, and to debate thoughtfully the issue.

6.  Please be critical of our reporting, but do not repeat yourself endlessly.  Continuous repetition of the same points may subject your comments to deletion.

Pretty simple stuff, really.  We may continue to tweak these rules as necessary, but at least this is a place to start.


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  1. Bad Blogger says:

    You know why the First Amendment is great?  It’s because it protects all speech (and please, MEP, don’t claim any of this is slander.  Most personal insults and attacks are protected speech, too).  Of course, I’m not comparing Jason to Congress.  I’m simply saying these rules are absolutely unnecessary.  Make people defend what they write.  Don’t just delete something of which you disapprove.

  2. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Let’s be specific.  Firstly, I am not a legislative agency or a judicial agency impeding free speech.  I’m not stopping anyone from getting a web page and saying whatever they want.

    On THIS web page, though, I think we need to raise the level a bit.  I’m not going to delete things I disapprove—if by “disapproval” you mean contrary thoughts.  In fact, I encourage those. 

    But re-read the rules.  There is no reason to turn this blog into an insult festival—and that is what too many people have tried to make it.

    These rules are all reasonable, and civilized.

  3. Bad Blogger says:

    Reread my comment, Jason.  I know you’re not Congress.  I said so.  Don’t intentionally confuse people.

  4. Tarzan says:

    This is not a free speech issue. The Beacon has no obligation to publish a comment simply because it is submitted. Blog comments are the internet equivalent of a print publication’s letters to the editor page. Every print publication is entitled to manage its letters section. Same goes here.

    No doubt a chimpanzee can be trained to tap characters on a computer keyboard and then press the “send” key. Does that   mean the chimp deserves to be included in the discussion? 

    The comment sections of the Beacon and other blogs (such as the Enquirer’s Politics Extra), have a tendency to degenerate into verbal playpens. As a result, I (and perhaps others) regularly refrain from posting comments since I know that constructive discussion may quickly tuen into a food fight between clods. This only lowers the standard of the Beacon. Who does that serve?

    So perhaps the new policy may bring forward thoughtful commenters who until now have been frustrated by the free-for-all zoo to which the Beacon’s comments section has had a tendency to drift. 

    As readers consider this new policy and read other comments about the policy, I urge them to keep this in mind: Who would not want to improve the quality of discussion?

  5. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    You know why the First Amendment is great?  It’s because it protects all speech (and please, MEP, don’t claim any of this is slander.  Most personal insults and attacks are protected speech, too).—from Bad Blogger (#1)

    My American Heritage Dictionary, in a usage note, says that slander is a false statement.  I myself have generally not responded to statements that are just personal insults, no matter how absurd, but do respond to false statements.  An example is a recent comment to the Marc Frison story that I supported Joe Deters in the 2004 election, when I did not.

    And, as the Dean has posted, why should the Beacon provide a forum for those who merely want to hurl personal insults?

    And Bad Blogger should read up on what the First Amendment actually protects and what it does not.  From the Wikipedia article on the First Amendment:

    As the Supreme Court again ruled in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), opinions cannot be considered defamatory. It is thus permissible to suggest, for instance, that a lawyer is a bad one, but not permissible to declare that the lawyer is ignorant of the law: the former constitutes a statement of values, but the latter is a statement alleging a fact.

    More recently, in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co. 497 U.S. 1 (1990), the Supreme Court backed off from the protection from “opinion” announced in Gertz. The court in Milkovich specifically held that there is no wholesale exemption to defamation law for statements labeled “opinion,” but instead that a statement must be provably false (falsifiable) before it can be the subject of a libel suit.

    In 1988, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell extended the “actual malice” standard to intentional infliction of emotional distress in a ruling which protected a parodic caricature. In the ruling, “actual malice” was described as “knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard whether or not it was true.”

    Ordinarily, the First Amendment only applies to prohibit direct government censorship. The protection from libel suits recognizes that the power of the state is needed to enforce a libel judgment between private persons. The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of defamation suits is thus sometimes considered part of a broader trend in U.S. jurisprudence away from the strict state action requirement, and into the application of First Amendment principles when private actors invoke state power.

    Although most instances of slander and libel are not worth pursuing in the courts, one should not assume that the First Amendment gives one permission to knowingly or recklessly make false and defamatory statements.

  6. You'll use this like a bludgeon, fer sher says:

    Is the Enquirer protected from gratuitous insult under these rules? How about Phil Heimlich? Melva Gywnn?

    What if you repeat yourselves endlessly? How will we be able to enforce rule number 6?

  7. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    MEP- you are not a lawyer. Do not interpret laws. Period.

    And don’t quote the American Heritage dictionary when looking up legal words. Use Black’s Dictionary. You can find it at most legitimate book stores.

    Finally, don’t cite Wikipedia as a legal reference.

    Jeez- no wonder why you were jumping all over the BOE for those results that you interpreted incorrectly.

    Consult a lawyer. I will be happy to clear things up for you.

  8. Brendan says:

    I think these rules are a good idea, and I hope they are enforced.

  9. Bad Blogger says:

    Come on, MEP.  You know I was talking about the legal sense, and not the colloquial.

    As you pointed out, if I wrote that you were a creep, or Jason was a sleaze, that would be my opinion.  Too many people in the blogosphere (and especially on this site), pull out the slander/libel card at the first whiff of an insult.

  10. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    I have deleted a few comments on this thread—but as this thread is about the deletion of comments, I archived them here.

    If anyone is curious, please follow the link.  I think the difference between what gets cut and what doesn’t can become more clear.  I think we can all benefit from these rules.

  11. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Bad Blogger, I know you said that, but I wanted to emphasize the point.  Demanding that people stay on topic on this site is not censorship. 

    Your use of the word “disapprove” is misleading.  I disapprove of certain ideas, but I have no problem letting them on the site.  That is a different sort of disapproval from wishing to delete posts of no consequence that just make insults.

  12. Freedom Fighters says:

    .

    Free speech is free speech, Period !

    The public is able to sort for them self. We do not need big brother protecting us.

    How did it feel when hindlick restricted your freedoms on the bar stool ?

    We can no longer support, censorship, PERIOD !

    .

  13. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    That comparison does not make sense, Freedom Fighter.  We were in a place open to the public. 

    If, on the other hand, I went to Phil Heimlich’s house and refused to stop calling him an asshole—well, surely I would expect to be asked to leave!

  14. Agreed says:

    It is the time that the content of the threads needs to be kept to that. Getting off topic has been a huge issue for the Beacon for a long time. I really don’t mind the name calling- but the topic shift is what has been driving me not to post as often.

  15. cincysuz says:

    I’m sure this will be dumped so I’ll just say what I want. MEP mentioned MY post and I believe I’m the catalyst. Understandably racist remarks are to be avoided. Are sexist and homophobic remarks okay? What about flaming trolls? That doesn’t sound very nice.

    I don’t see how any of the three of you can avoid being banned for violating your own rules. Almost all of your articles are attacks based on innuendo and conjecture, seldom fact.  Why is my accusation that MEP supported Deters any more inflammatory than Jeffre claiming I stumped for Si Leis (I did not but I’m not going to cry about being accused of it). I get much worse than I give. Here’s a sampling of a few of the many derogatory things that the Beaconers and followers regularly sling at me: liar (MEPs favorite), insane and every other conceivable mental condition, stupid, ignorant, racist, no-class, unbalanced, frustrated, fat ass, economically disadvantaged (the Dean stopped just short of calling me Poor White Trash), on the take, bitter, unhappy, frustrated, white woman (repeatedly as a negative), corporate democrat, and obsessed.  In fact in reviewing some old posts, I see you never made a peep when a friend of yours called me a “bitch.” You’ve never seen the insults coming my way as a violation of any real or implied Beacon code. I have, in fact, been more restrained than some that routinely use racial, ethnic, sexist, or homophobic slurs.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this new tea party progresses. You’re backing yourselves into a corner and I predict you’ll be spending alot of time in the future trying to explain how YOUR articles and YOUR positions don’t violate YOUR rules.

  16. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Do you think I should add a rule that says:

    No sexism, heterosexism, classism…

    Naturally, if we keep going, someone will go down the slipper slope and indicate that soon everything will be banned.

    Oh well.  This is, and always has been, a bit of an experiment and a work in progress.

  17. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    BTW, cincysue, what specific rule above do you think I break?

  18. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    I have deleted a few comments on this thread—but as this thread is about the deletion of comments, I archived them here.

    If anyone is curious, please follow the link.  I think the difference between what gets cut and what doesn’t can become more clear.  I think we can all benefit from these rules.

    If you are going to enforce these rules, and you certainly may do so on your own website, I suggest you create a parallel thread, as you have demonstrated the ability to do so above, to allow the access of those who wish to comments that you selected not to be published.

  19. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Not a bad idea, but too time intensive do maintain long term.

  20. anon says:

    The new rules are a good step, Dean. I think the changes will be a big help and encourage others to comment who have been put off by some of the previous problems.

  21. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Why is my accusation that MEP supported Deters any more inflammatory than Jeffre claiming I stumped for Si Leis—from cincysuz (#15)

    Readers will note that in my comment (#5) I specifically said I tend to respond to false statements, not personal insults.  Cincysuz’s statement that I supported Deters is false and that is why I responded to it.  Readers will also note that I did not use cincysuz’s name in my comment—I was merely using it as an example.  Readers will also note that I used the term “false statements” and not the term “lie.”  I do sometimes use the term “lie,” that’s true.  I tend to hold back if the person is named out of respect.  If I know for a fact that that person does know better I will use that term.

    But I do notice that all of those who make false statements the most often are anonymous.  And given that they are throwing false accusations around but are hiding, I do use the term “liar” for them more readily.  Since they are anonymous, whom are they kidding when they say they take umbrage?

  22. Justin Jeffre says:

    anonymous, how do we know you’re a lawyer?

    And how do we know you’re a good lawyer. I recall a well known lawyer/politician saying that the sheriff’s drug asset forfeiture accounts couldn’t be used to help pay costs for a new jail or drug programs. I believe he was wrong.

    Bad Blogger, just refrain from hurling insults and you want have any problems.

    Cincysuz, I don’t recall saying that you stumped for Leis. I do recall saying that you were lined up with Leis after reading thousands of ridiculous comments claiming that I’m a big supporter of Tom Brinkman, Coast and tool for the Republicans.

    I was making the point that because the issue was so divisive the same silly argument could be used on you and more progressive people that supported the jail tax.

    We really don’t like deleting comments and have resisted it for a long time, but I also think it has gotten out of control. It would be nice if we didn’t even have to monitor comments, but a few trolls were able to hijack this project.

    We really do hope that the debate continues and is more vibrant than ever. I’m hopeful that this change will encourage a higher level of debate.

    Freedom Fighters, for the record the Dean was immediately let back in and then the club bought us drinks, but I don’t think there’s a legitimate comparison there.

  23. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    MEP- you are not a lawyer. Do not interpret laws. Period. (et cetera, et cetera)—from anonymous (#7)

    I note that anonymous fails to give any reference, or actually to correct any specific point.  The purpose of the comment section is to advance the discussion by providing better or more complete information.  Since the better information itself must be judged, sources must be given.  Anonymous has failed to do so.

    The statement that only lawyers can interpret laws is a common one in the Beacon comment section.  Of course, all such statements have always been made anonymously and have failed to provide any actual references.

  24. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Jeez- no wonder why you were jumping all over the BOE for those results that you interpreted incorrectly.

    The above statement is false and this has already been answered in the Beacon.  I debated about whether to respond since it is impossible to respond to all the false statements made about me, but since I have responded to other false statements in this thread I will do so here, too.  As is typical with false statements about Beacon contributors, this one was done anonymously.

  25. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    In that case, how about a single, omnibus deleted post thread ?

  26. No Justice says:

    Great ideas!
    I was wondering about post #15 since it started out as a pity party, having very little to do with the topic and also noted that the poster never owned up to the fact that she often instigates the attacks against her. I look forward to reading comments about the topic only and not reading all the back and forth garbage.

    It’s about time!!!!!!!

  27. Cincy911TruthGuy says:

    With a screen name like mine I think the new rules are a great idea!

  28. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Excellent rules- I like the idea of putting the personal attacks on a different post- you could call it the “Kids Table”  If commentors are deleted for calling each other “racist” you might cut your comments in half.  It will be interesting to see if people can have a discussion without calling each other names- this includes the administrators of this blog and pretty much anyone that called for cincysue to be banned a few days ago.

    The posts in this blog are very interesting- they get bogged down by the silly insults and name calling

  29. Cheetah says:

    Here’s an idea re: the problematic posts and the Dean’s time limitations for monitoring them.

    IMHO, posters who make statements which violate the new Beacon rules are well aware of the boundaries and when they are violating those boundaries. Why not make a special “anything goes” posting area? Call it “the graffiti wall” or something like that. It could be an open endless threat, preferably organized in reverse chronoligal order, ie, most recent post first. I would suggest a VERY strong legal disclaimer posted at the top.

    This gives the naughty ones a place to fling their boo-boo, a place for legitimate posters to leave random thoughts that don’t fit into another category, doesn’t require any monitoring, and might turn out to be a lot of fun.

  30. CincyJeff says:

    Good job guys.  Hopefully the discussions will take a more intelligent turn now that we won’t have to spend so much time trying to block out the kiddie posts.

  31. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Rules are great…free speech is great….insulting or arguing to just argue is just silly and pointless. You know what most brains do when they see a negative comment? They turn on a filter. So the person being rude won’t prove their point because it’s being read through a filter. So why waist your time with it. Bring facts, bring integrity when making comments….otherwise your waisting everyones time :o)

  32. Freedom Fighters says:

    .

    <i>”...Freedom Fighters, for the record the Dean was immediately let back in and then the club bought us drinks, but I don’t think there’s a legitimate comparison there….”

    hindlick restricted both of you to your own little bar stool !

    The comparison was that your constitutional rights were placed second because someone did not like your message.

    We have read the comments banned and the only thing different is that they are negative toward the beacon staff, PERIOD !

    What you have accomplished is that negative comments, about the beacon, will now be placed on competing blogs and they will be all to eager to post them !

    GUARANTEED !

    UPSIDE: there is no way you could ever post anything nate or monica has to say !

    lol, lol, lol


    .

  33. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Freedom Fighters, he tried to, but I spoke to the manager and we were allowed to stay. She asked that we stay over by the bar because they were having a private party and she offered to buy us drinks. We were fine with that, we had a good time and appreciated the hospitality. We didn’t have a message. We were just there to have some drinks and we did. Again, I don’t see any real comparision.

    I don’t see any need for us to host the kind of useless drivel that we’ve decided to ban. People can start their own blogs and can post their nasty little attacks on other blogs. They already do at some, so they have plenty of opportunities to spew their childish comments.

    This project is about creating a place for vibrant discussions about our community and the issues that we face. It’s not about giving anonymous children a place to fling mud, spread lies and make petty personal attacks. If you don’t like it you can start your own blog.

  34. Bludgeon says:

    So how many off-topic comments on this thread already? These rules aren’t serious.
    It’s soooo transparent that this is just a way for you to silence anything critical.

  35. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Actually, this has been a good strand.  It is not off-topic.

    Now, the other comment you left on a different story, right after you typed this one, signing your name “Please!”—where you just called us dumb… well, I don’t know how calling us dumb adds to a discussion.  So it was deleted.  Name calling and criticism are very different.  If you want to be critical, do it in a mature and thoughtful way.

  36. Pease! says:

    I said nobody else was dumb enough to do what you did. Now, that’s different than calling you dumb, isn’t it? And it is also a vadid point. Compared to professional journalists (and you guts loooove to compare yourselves to the big boys), you make more mistakes.

    Just proves my point. This isn’t about racism or personal insults. This is you filtering criticism.

  37. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    We are not filtering criticism.  Don’t believe me?  Well, make a web movie of your screen that shows you typing a thoughtful, critical comment.  Then, when a day or so passes and it’s not online, you will have indisputable proof that we are trying to shelter ourselves from criticism.

    If you were honest, you’d see that plenty of critical posts have already gotten through under the new rules.

    I think, instead, that you are trying to mischaracterize the subject, perhaps because you were part of the nasty peanut gallery trying to destroy our site with your venom.

  38. Wild Turkey says:

    I’d like to share another reason why this recent Beacon “upgrade” is important.

    The Post is folding and, meanwhile, the Enquirer continues to deteriorate. The TV news stations, even when they do good work, are limited by time restrictions imposed by management. CityBeat can be a source of great reporting (almost single-handedly thanks to the under-appreciated Kevin Osborne), but recently they cut a string of columnists and the paper hasn’t yet grown online as they should be. (Are you reading this, John Fox?)

    Hands down, The Beacon is the best of the local blogs doing original reporting, thanks to the efforts of the Dean, Justin, and MEP. As other local news venues disappear, shrink, lose their cajones, whatever, The Beacon’s role becomes more crucial. That doesn’t just mean breaking stories, but in establishing editorial credibility, an ongoing responsibility for every publication. 

    Casting out the distracting peanut gallery comments is a strong step in that direction, one for which I give thanks. 

    In that spirit, happy holiday to The Beak and its denizens, among whom I proudly include myself.

  39. Jones says:

    ...because you were part of the nasty peanut gallery…

    I was wondering how long it was going to take for someone to break the “rules”.  It looks like Jason in #37 in his reply to Please! #36.

    1. Name calling.
    2. Jason elevating himself to the Master of Ceremonies, higher than anyone else.

    Way to go, Jason!  Everyone else has kept it to civility. You need to reel in Jeffre a bit. He’s getting close to the edge.

    I figured it would go one way. Every contributor has to bend to your rules & while you can continue to say as you wish. 

    I hope that insulting, degrading term “silly goose” is part & parcel of the “rules”.

  40. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    4.  Comments which just make personal attacks will be deleted.

    If you read the entirety of comment #37, you will see that the comment did not “just make personal attacks.” 

    Additionally, it is a weird thing to suggest that one can personally attack someone who is anonymous!

    But, again, I suspect you already know that.

    I figured it would go one way. Every contributor has to bend to your rules & while you can continue to say as you wish.

    You can spin it this way if you like.  As another commenter noted, we do have editorial rights here.  This is, after all, our website, and not yours.  We are under no obligation to let anybody comment. 

    Having said that, we have a public record of taking lots of not only criticism, but personal insults as well.  Plenty of critical comments continue to be posted.  But there is nothing wrong with working to raise the level a bit.  Finally, we decided that personally insulting us was not working to advance a productive agenda.

    We, too, are going to hold ourselves to a different standard.  But I don’t think referring to a bunch of anonymous naysayers as a peanut gallery is anything about which to get offended.

  41. Al says:

    Spin it any way you want, but this ultimately will turn into nothing but a blog that has everyone agreeing with each other.  No other viewpoints, no criticism of the authors.

    Air America tried this, and we all see how wildly successful that turned out to be.

  42. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Commenting Rules!

    I hope that’s on topic?

  43. adap2k says:

    post my email dean!

  44. Karen Best says:

    Subject: Teabagger Tactics Exposed!

    Dear Mr. Jeffre,

    This is in response to your August 4th, 2009 post on “The Cincinnati Beacon” website regarding Congressman Steve Driehaus’ Town Hall meeting on Monday, August 3, 2009. For the record, your whole premise for the article is patently false!

    None of the directives you attribute to the Tea Party and associated organizations were in fact issued to its membership. Thanks to Mary Katharine Ham of the “Weekly Standard”, these directives were instead issued by a small Libertarian grassroots organization in Connecticut, Right Principles PAC,  which was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008. Their Facebook group consists of twenty-three members and has a Twitter following of four members. ( Most individuals have a greater following than these guys.) Additionally, the cited directives from the Right Principles PAC group were embellished by preceding each of the Talking Points by MacGuffie with headlines which made the overall directives sound more sinister. Mary Katharine Ham’s complete expose of this intentional, Democratic National Committee mis-representation of the “Tea Party” movement can be found at the following “Weekly Standard” link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/think_progress_msnbc_manufactu.asp

    We also take offense to subsequent comments by readers of your post which assert that maybe the 9/12 Project attendees were to be blamed for the alleged “disturbances”, instead of the Tea Party.  Not only do I question the submitter’s ability to differentiate between the groups, but would suggest that these comments appear to be a shameless attempt to create division between our groups.

    Consequently, you have no proof of orchestration by the Republican Party or Corporate Lobbyists, as you assert.


    In light of these facts, we would appreciate a retraction of your article and a truthful presentation of the facts.

    Sincerely yours,

    Karen Best

    Founder, Cincinnati 9/12 Project

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