Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comment Violation Test: How to handle comments about a black murder victim

The topic for yesterday's Comment Violation Test was Joshua Komisarjevsky - and it revealed that the New Haven Register needs to consider defining in greater detail how we handle comments that celebrate or promote the death of another person and how we treat convicted criminals, particularly ones with a jury-approved death sentence.

Today, I want to take a look at one of the Register's most heated comment topics.

Dallas Boomer became the 32nd person murdered in New Haven last week. He was black, and a lot of the comments about his murder focused on that. Some were blocked, some were allowed and some were very difficult to call.

Review these comments and tell us what you would do if you were the moderator. If you find that they violate the New Haven Register Comment Policy, block it. If not, allow it.

Please note, some of these comments were deemed very offensive.


  1. Only 1 or 2 were allowable. Tricky though because there were some, like the Cheshire one which without knowing about that case you would think would be allowable.

  2. I find almost every comment offensive, but I would allow they to be published, Because it is good to know what a hateful bunch the people of CT can be, when they can post an anonymous, comment

  3. I can see how people may be offended by comments but I like to hear the public response to news articles. These are comments you would hear in the barber shop while waiting for your haircut or in a diner while having breakfast. Someone will always be offended when it comes to public comments and those people do not have to read the comments section.

    As an educated reader, I have a fairly good understanding of the issues surrounding greater New Haven. It does not take a special study to know that most of the shootings in NH occur in poverty stricken areas where drugs, guns and street violence are the norm. The TRUTH is that NO ONE (including the government, Yale scholars, and local community leaders) know how to fix the socioeconomic problems that plague low income areas of New Haven. Readers should be allowed to express their feelings around news articles. Filtering should only remove posts with inappropriate language (swear words) and posts unrelated to the news article (political spam).

  4. Everybody has a different measure for 'offensive.' That much is clear from the divided results of the 200-plus responses so far. Thanks for the feedback.

    @ Jenny G. - Some very challenging ones, yes, but some of these can further the discussion of violence and race in New Haven. If it disrupts the discussion in a harmful way, it should be blocked. If it something that sparks challenging (not vicious) debate - it's worth considering. The contrast between crime in Cheshire and New Haven, is an interesting discussion to have, I think.

    @ Kimberlym2 - In a way, yes. Hopefully we can keep a healthy dialogue open with multiple viewpoints, that spurs debate without the flagrant hate and verbal attacks and name calling.

  5. I would allow every one of these comments, as none could be taken as a direct threat to any person's physical safety. That said, I have seen other sites where the feedback section allows the readers to flag items as offensive, and hides the offending posts when a certain number of readers flag them. Note that the posts are still there, and readable, but are marked with "flagged by community, click here to view the comment". The same mechanism could be used to suppress comments the register wishes to censor without deleting them entirely.

  6. I would allow all comments even if offensive. Yes, they do hurt, and are quite ugly. But two things here, one, the first amendment protects these comments and two, it’s nice to know what folks think about you. The people posting are our neighbors and co-workers. These type of comments are more common in the NH register than with other papers ( although they do appear). Could it be that the Register allowed this type of posting to go on way too long? Kind of hard to put the horse back in the barn…

  7. Thanks everyone for your feedback and comments. We have received nearly 400 responses. The Register's Community Engagement Team and Comment Moderators are reviewing the responses and will provide a follow up post with analysis on each comment, and the decision they feel we should reach next time we receive a similar comment on a similar story.

  8. I agree with Jenny G. The media has great power to affect public opinion and therefore great responsibility. History has proven the power of the media with Germany in the late 1920s-40s and Rwanda in the early 1990s. Don't we want healthy communities? If we wouldn't allow negativity to proliferate in print or broadcast, why should unhealthy dialogue proliferate in what are supposed to be community comment boards? If you want to allow such negative of comments to honor free speech, I would say to at least limit them. Otherwise, over-proliferation breeds a very unhealthy environment, the healthy voices are drowned out and those voices are lost because they don't want to be part of the virulent contagion. Instead of thriving, the community degenerates. These are supposed to be community comment boards, aren't they? I think we should encourage healthy dialogue and innovation that respects everyone's human potential than viewpoints that try to abusively stamp it out. This is the 21st century and we finally have the technological opportunity to communicate instantly anywhere in the world to resolve the worst problems that have plagued our collective humanity, such as hunger, scarce resources violence and war. Let's not perpetuate more of the same. I would prefer creating a healthy environment which encourages solving the problems that have plagued our collective ancestors who did not have today's technology. A better world is possible.