Friday, December 30, 2011

What Gives With Print Media's Treatment of Mayor's New Hire?

Yesterday at 11:04 a.m. the Big Metal Shed on the Hill published this story online about the hiring of Patricia Robledo by Madame Mayor Madeline. By Bill Lyons own admission on the local liberal blog, Lyons the #3 guy in the Madame Mayor Madeline administration posted "I monitored the comments from the time the article appeared. Literally within a minute or two a comment appeared that was just plain racist and disgusting. I flagged it for removal. Within a short time 8 more comments appeared. They ran the gamut from sanctuary cities to green cards to more overt racist appeals and references to Mexicans. When I checked again in a few minutes the comments were disabled. I breathed a sign of relief and hoped that Ms. Robledo's children had not read the comments while they were still viewable." Should the individual making $150, 030.00 the second highest salary in the administration and $20,030 more than the Mayor herself have the duty of monitoring and flagging "objectionable" comments?  Is his flagging a comment, his opinion or that of the City administration.

The problem that has been communicated to me by at least three people in the community today. Is the Big Metal Shed on the Hill or it's Editor Jack McElroy's decision yesterday that speech with some public officials off limits. From all indications this was a first for a public official. Don Jacob's story last week detailing the high school rank of former Mayoral candidate Ivan Harmon should have been disabled. However, as an elected official and Senior Citizen Harmon should not have been exposed to such tacky reporting, commenting. As for other public officials, former Mayor Mike Ragsdale, former Sheriff Tim Hutchison were never the recipient of disabling tacky, hurtful comments. Former Mayoral candidate Mark Padgett and his family were the subject of many hurtful comments posted on the website of the Big Metal Shed on the Hill and McElroy did not disable the comments. Even myself as a former School Board Member and Knox County Republican Party Chairman have never received the gift of disabling comment that were tacky, hurtful and just plain low class.

Everyone that becomes a public official understands that all comments are unfortunately fair game unless the "official" can prove malice. Mrs. Robledo should have been informed of this prior to accepting the the job. Obviously, Lyons expected it, when he said last night on the local liberal forum "Unfortunately we expected that this might happen." When he said "we" was it he and the Mayor? he, the Mayor and Mrs. Robledo?

As for the controversy of Mrs. Robledo coming to Knoxville in 1980 and becoming a citizen in 1990. However, authored the press release exposed this controversy to Mrs. Robledo and the Big Metal Shed on the Hill including it. Obviously, with it's inclusion in the press release and article everyone "with hands on deck" should have expected the questions.

Now, as for how comments are handled. I have always advocated that comments be listed by the commenter's name. I began using comment moderation, to keep the ill bred, nasty comments off. In addition to comment moderation it allows me to check ip addresses where the comment is coming from. The Big Metal Shed on the Hill has the ip addresses of all comments. So, they know who it is. I support tight requirements on commenting, however I am against the wholesale disable comments by the paper. It is not right.


Bill Lyons said...

Brian, I want to be clear about what happened here. For context, a number of years ago the NS ran a story about Mayor Haslam's appointment of Law Director Debbie Poplin. Immediately some very tasteless comments appeared, none of which had a bit of substance. They were just nasty and tacky. So I was concerned when the story on Ms. Robledo was put online. The very first comment was totally without substance and was very racist. It was a basically a random series of fake Hispanic pseudo slang words. When I read it I checked the "Flag for removal" with the hope that someone at the NS would check it out. I did not flag any other comment or contact anyone at the paper. I noticed later that the comments were disabled, and given what I had seen, I certainly understood why.

I completely understand the role of the press and of public dialogue. I never have contacted the NS or any other newspaper or flagged any comment that was critical of any public official. I do not think that would be at all appropriate given my position. I have flagged maybe four or five comments for review. All of those were non substantive and cruel and demeaning in their use of language. In the case of the position announcements I know how proud both appointees were of their positions and had every reason to believe that their kids and family members would be among the first to check. I wanted them to feel good about the new in regard to their mom, daughter, or wife. I do feel it is a real shame that anonymous posters can provide hurt and embarrassment. That was my point in discussing this on Knoxviews.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

Brian Hornback said...

Thank you for commenting on this post and clarifying your role.

You and I can agree on one thing, the Big Metal Shed on the Hill need to solve this anonymous commenting issue and find a way to force validation and identity.

However, these ill bred anonymous posters will get their say in some form. I know this from personal experience.

The fear amongst the several people that talked to me today is that the paper is protecting a few public servants while others are exposed as they ought to be.

Good luck in your new venture. You are always welcome to post here.

Bill Lyons said...

Thanks Brian

Anonymous said...

Other online newspapers have fairly tight commenting policies. They are clearly stated, and although comments can be highly critical, they are not personal smears. will let some comments sections run wild and shut down others at the drop of a hat.

Public officials need to make a concerted effort to stop the KNS for being so inconsistent in its enforcement of policy.

It's the inconsistency that creates the perception, rightly or wrongly, that the KNS favors certain public officials over others, and it needs to stop.

I've seen some highly offensive comments used about elementary school teachers in community interest stories. KNS needs to get its act together, or lose whatever credibility msm has left to lose.

Keep Them Honest said...

Brian--Great post---NS needs some monitoring for sure---Of course a story about a County Official is a posting free-for-all!