Archive for the ‘Mission Statement’ Category
Our friend Michael DeVault the other day commented in one of our posts on the practice of anonymous comments online about public officials. His opinion was that,
“…in this country, when we criticize our government — elected *or* appointed — we should sign our names.”
That’s certainly a valid opinion. And one with which we completely disagree.
We here at Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) allow ALL comments, anonymous or otherwise. We are proud to say that to date there have been over 1700 reader comments submitted, and we have deleted only three or four of them. And those were obviously spam.
We subscribe to the theory that the antidote to unpopular free speech is yet more free speech.
Banning unsigned online comments undermines the media’s role as a forum for debate.
After a Boston editor received complaints about the potential abuse of anonymity in the reader comments he published, he announced that he would collect the writers’ real names and make them public if need be. Editors of some other newspapers announced they would do the same.
Detractors quickly decried the idea as antithetical to the principles of press freedom. One writer called the move a “despotic scheme of government”; another said it was an attempt by “our aristocratical gentry” to silence the voice of the common citizen. In the end, Editor Benjamin Russell abandoned his plan and continued to publish unsigned commentary, much of it heated and vitriolic, in his Massachusetts Centinel.
The year was 1787. The opponents to his “real name” policy were the Anti-Federalists. And the debate was over what became the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In an era when the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment does not apply to public employees who point out the mistakes of their superiors, and people can lose their jobs for making statements that somebody might construe as “disrespectful,” real people with serious opinions need anonymity to exercise their most basic democratic rights: to dissent, to criticize, to advocate and to debate controversies. If journalists try to silence the “haters and hollerers” by banning anonymous comments online, they also will silence the poor, the vulnerable and the dispossessed. Such a ban would represent a drastic overreaction.
As Rieder points out, anonymity is misused by some, and egregiously so. But anonymity isn’t the problem; lack of editing is. There are ways to curb abuses in the forums, whether using high-tech solutions or good old-fashioned editing.
We in the Fourth Estate should be defenders and practi-tioners of the First Amendment. We should temper our professional disdain with a realization that, on the whole, anonymity is the one true cultural equalizer, and that it is what the First Amendment was meant to protect all along.
We were impressed with Professor Reader’s column – so much so that we emailed him and he sent us another piece he had written for the Journal of Mass Media Ethics.
We think it hilarious to see publishers and editors of today’s newspapers cower in fear of some anonymous letter writer or some internet poster sitting around in his pajamas, yet tell us every day how they bravely stand up to presidents, ambassadors and senators by “speaking truth to power.”
What these editors and publishers are REALLY afraid of is the prospect of the unwashed having the ability to talk back to them.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.
Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.
Sunshine Week is a nonpartisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between.
How Louisiana Citizens can Fight Closed Government
This weblog will represent taxpayers. Government at all levels is too big and takes too much money from its citizens. Government will be covered from the standpoint of how best to obtain maximum value for every dollar government seizes from its citizens.
Lincoln Parish News Online will cover and report on the meetings and activities of the City of Ruston, Lincoln Parish Police Jury and Lincoln Parish School Board. We will insist that local governments fully disclose any and all budgets, meeting notices and minutes and promptly post them on their websites.
The condition of government, its employees and its officials is of no concern to Lincoln Parish News Online. Government can and does take care of itself – it has always prospered and grown, regardless of the local economy and the financial health of the citizens who fund its existence.
Area print publications sufficiently advocate for government – they are often too comfortable with government and prosper from the antiquated custom of legal advertising in limited circulation paper format. It is welfare for newspapers. State law may require it, but there is no restriction to prevent legal advertising to be simultaneously published on government websites.
Lincoln Parish News Online will attempt to bring balance to news coverage of Lincoln Parish government. News reporting is too important to be left to journalists.