How Does the New York Times Moderate User Comments?

The Times’ site has amassed over 2,000 comments regarding the execution of Saddam Hussein in the last 36 hours. The sentiment of the majority appears to denounce the practice of execution and the rapid manner in which Hussein met his fate following a “farcical” trial. Reactions ranged from: “bin Laden is next,” to “this is a sad, sad day.”

There are a TON of comments. Most are devoid of hyperlinks (although a couple odd ones from the shady-right partisan informationclearinghouse Web site snuck into a couple) and despite an abundance of typos and poor spelling, I didn’t notice any “bad words” at first glance.

However, my interest is piqued by comment #2032:

P.M. Alessandrini:

I submitted, today at 11:20 am, a comment criticizing the fact that links to videos concerning the execution of Saddam Hussein in yesterday and today’s web edition of the New York Times are coupled with advertisements, in video and image form, for the new film about Idi Amin, “The Last King of Scotland”. Criticism of coverage and its presentation is absolutely pertinent to this issue, and should not be suppressed. Let us not forget that support among the US public of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was due largely to a campaign of misinformation by the Bush administration, made possible – with only too few exceptions – by cooperation from the US media. Nonetheless, after seeing my comment listed as number 1953 below the heading, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”, it has not appeared on the page of comments one hour later, despite the fact that numerous comments submitted afterwards have been posted. I therefore invite your readers to see my comments about the coverage of the New York Times in the coming days on the website of the Atlantic Free Press, to which I am a contributor, if this criticism continues to be censored from the NYT comments page.
posted on December 31st, 2006 at 12:29 pm

The commenters originally moderated comment 1953 has not since appeared. Minutes later, another commenter adds, “It seems that the NYT has decided to take side rather than just delivering news and let Americans speak their mind.”

Shortly after that, theh posting of comments appears to have been halted. As I write this (5:57pm EST) the last posted comment is from 12:40pm EST, despite a standing invitation on the NYT Home page for fresh comments.

I’m very interesting in learning about the Times’ policies regarding readers’ comments and who/what disqualifies particular content from being posted. Anyone? Calame, are you reading?

A happy, healthy new year, readers!

Jesus Christ! Local ‘News’ or Over-Cautious Infotainment?

Light posting lately as I take some time away from all things computerized and work on some other projects. But I can’t seem to get this one story out of my head. Thanks to Tony Pierce at LAist for the tip-off.

On Christmas Day 6pm newscast on KNBC Channel 4, NBC’s Los Angeles area affiliate, neither newscasters Ted Chen nor Kelly Mack uttered the word “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” despite referring to “Christmas” 30 times.

This is among the most perverted reactions to the so-called holiday/christmas quasi-conundrum on the airwaves. If nothing else, it’s practically journalistic blasphemy to highlight a particular event without giving it’s historical, traditional, ideological, or fanciful background. Even if one could assume that the majority of Americans know what Christmas celebrates, (personally, I always forget whether it’s the birth, death, or rebirth), local broadcast news is drops the ball by failing to provide brief historical context — even if its “this is the third time in four days that Paris Hilton has gotten a DUI.” We Americans tend to forget very quickly (we re-elected George W. Bush, remember?).

HERE’s the Kicker: On the following day’s (12/26) 11am news, KNBC thoroughly and very appropriately explained Kwanzaa:

African-Americans are beginning the celebration of Kwanza. A parade gets way at noon in LA’s Crenshaw district. The seven-day long Kwanza holiday was founded back in 1966 as a way for African-Americans to reflect back on their ancestry and culture. It involves seven daily principals of unity, self-determination, work, responsibility, knowledge, strength, purpose, creativity, and faith. Participants in today’s Kwanza parade will march down Crenshaw Blvd. from Adams to Vernon.

Predictably, right wing bloggers are slamming the “liberal” media for all of these things and other instances of censorship that clearly violate First Amendment rights. But, seriously, this all makes me think we may be heading towards a bipartisan attack on Atheist fundamentalists.

Click here and listen to On the Media’s segment on reporting Atheism — it’s an eye-opener.

Truthiness: The WØRD (of the Year)!

Stephen Colbert can add another award to his mantle. Merriam-Webster has named “truthiness” 2006’s Word of the Year.

While it should never be forgotten that 2006 was the year that Stephen Colbert tore up the pols and the press at the White House Correspondents Dinner (one of the most-circulated videos of the year and probably in C-SPAN history: watch it here), it was also the year in which Colbert’s famous word-coinage was appropriated by real-news columnists and pundits to describe the Bush administration’s often unbelievable imagination/interpretation of reality.

Colbert is universally credited with coining the word “truthiness” and defining it on The WØRD segment of the inaugural Colbert Report as “truth that comes from the gut, not books.” Click to watch Colbert’s “truthiness” segment.

But already, a Google search culls “about 736,000” instances of “truthiness” on the Internet. As late as February, I recall getting involved in a discussion on Wikipedia regarding whether the word “truthiness” even merited it’s own entry (there are already considerably detailed entries on Colbert, Colbert the character, and his “Report“).

Colbert has become such an extraordinary legend among surfers of the InterTubes that he now has a wiki that is entirely his own — Wikiality: “The Internets Tube Dedicated to Truthiness!”

From the AP:

“We’re at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people’s minds, and truth has become up for grabs,” said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. “‘Truthiness’ is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue.”

Other Top 10 finishers included “war,” “insurgent,” “sectarian” and “corruption.” But “truthiness” won 5-to-1, Morse said.

See all of M-W’s Words of the year here.

What a year. In fact, for “truthiness” it’s the second year of being named word of the year by one organization or another.

Here’s M-W’s official definition:

1. truthiness (noun)

1 : “truth that comes from the gut, not books” (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” October 2005)
2 : “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true” (American Dialect Society, January 2006)

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related posts: Stephen Colbert