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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Does HeraldTimesOnline actually have comment guidelines?

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Does the Herald-Times actually have guidelines for comments, or is moderation based entirely on the whims of the moderators? Once again, the H-T has demonstrated it is the latter, not the former. Yesterday, I posted the following comment under the horrific story of a one year old girl who was raped and murdered:

This is why child molestation is so evil.

Assuming initial reports are true and Kyle Parker is the murderer, he was almost certainly molested as a child. Whoever abused Parker is every bit as guilty for this crime as Parker himself. Children who are abused are traumatized and often go on to become abusers themselves.

That doesn't minimize Parker's guilt. He is 100% responsible for this crime and if convicted by a jury of his peers after a fair trial should be put to death.

And let's not forget that, under the law, he is innocent until proven guilty. We must be absolutely uncompromising on that.

My comment was promptly deleted. Naturally, I asked what rule I broke. The Herald-Times has the following blurb at the bottom of every story with comments:

We do not permit obscene, libelous, harassing, racist, hateful, offensive or violent language or images. Further, we will not allow personal attacks on news sources, other commenters or our staff.

I explained to HTO staff in an email that I could not have possibly libeled anyone, because I did not name anyone as Parker's abuser. What I said was not obscene, harassing, racist, hateful, or violent. I did not personally attack a news source, another commenter or HTO staff. My comment could be considered "offensive" but there's never been one single comment in the history of HeraldTimesOnline that could not be deemed "offensive" by someone because that's an incredibly subjective standard.

I further explained that it is a well-known and well-documented phenomenon that abused children become abusers themselves. My comment is therefore a perfectly reasonable and logical analysis of his behavior, especially given the horribly depraved nature of this particular crime.

The response was profoundly disappointing, yet sadly not surprising at all. This is the pathetic non-answer I got:

And as you stated in one of your comments minutes after this comment, perhaps we should close down "Comments on stories like this should probably be closed, as it invites wild speculation and accusations."


Instead of explaining exactly what rule I broke or how my post violates written HTO comment guidelines, Herald-Times staff decided to play a childish game of "gotcha."

The Herald-Times completely ignored my explanation for why my comment was "a perfectly reasonable and logical analysis of his behavior" especially considering I sent hyperlinks to stories on their own website that document this phenomenon. Exactly where in HTO comment guidelines is my observation and analysis not permitted?

Here's a hint: My comment in no way violates HTO comment guidelines.

This is sad and pathetic. Worse yet, this is completely unprofessional. Obviously, the Herald-Times can allow or not allow whatever it wants, but if the H-T wants users to follow the rules, then we need to know what the rules are. If the "rules" are simply what the whims of the moderators are that day (and that is the way things are run, whether the H-T wants to admit it or not) then they should be honest with that standard.

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