Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Herald comments and urban legends

Not to dwell on this topic, and I think I've posted enough about the commenting system at the Miami Herald online, but the last word should come from the Herald's ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos: Looking for ways to tame poisonous words on Web. Schumacher suggests a simple registration system might help the situation, as suggested in the article linked last week. But the most interesting part of this story is in the comments. Some thoughtful -- and some typically obnoxious -- reaction. Most interesting, one reader corrected Schumacher's misspelling of a Ben Franklin pseudonym (not yet corrected in the story -- and did he ask the research staff?), and others added useful thoughts about free speech.

In the last week I've found that the Herald's registration system, updated last spring, wouldn't let me into Herald stories on two computers. Although I knew my ID and password, nothing would work. Requesting password info and re-activation didn't work because I'd registered originally on my old Herald email address, and response from went there. So to read Herald stories I had to start over with a new registration. Oh well, their reader stats went up. But if a newspaper is going to have a registration system it should be easy for readers.

In another Florida newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, here's an interesting column for those following how urban legends are permeating public discourse: in All The 'News' Unfit To Print, editorial writer Joseph Brown discusses reader complaints based on misinformation, including a reader who accused the paper of 'hiding a truth' about Hillary Clinton that he heard about on Paul Harvey's radio show. Brown's advice:
But before you accuse us of covering up a story, check it out at or some other urban legend Web site. That is, if you're interested in hearing the truth.

It's sad that we've reached a point when so many people distrust the media so terribly, even when their basis for the distrust is so spurious.

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