Saturday, December 11, 2010

Utika Steps Backward . . . Again!

[The following was originally posted on the internet May 13, 2002 on the now defunct "Pulse" web forum:]

Utica (Utika?) took a giant step backward this week with its major newspaper, the Observer-Dispatch, eliminating anonymous postings on its internet forum. While the O-D is certainly within its rights to do this, it has a chilling effect on free-speech.

There are various reasons why posters choose not to reveal their identity. While some may have evil intentions, the majority do not. Some may be public employees who would like to "blow the whistle" on wrong doing without jeopardizing their job. Others may want to debate issues with their friends without destroying good friendships. Still others may want their ideas judged by their content rather than by the reputation of the poster. It has been said that anonymity may be the greatest form of altruism.

Although there are anonymous posters who abuse the priviledge, most do not. And of the few who have made inappropriate postings .. many get retracted when others point out the error of their ways.

Given that the Syracuse newspapers and the New York Times -- with much larger readerships than the O-D -- allow anonymous postings on their websites, there clearly is no good journalistic reason for the O-D to forbid them.

The O-D has long been perceived as the organ of the Utica area "elite" -- the "movers and shakers" who act behind the scenes to ensure that their "vision" is implemented (assuring themselves of power and their cronies of high standards of living). Of course, we have seen where the "vision" has gotten us.

The entity who should be screaming the loudest for open government -- who should be going to court when government boards go into illegal executive sessions or fail to disclose information under FOIL -- is strangely silent ... except, of course, when it is necessary to serve its "vision." The entity knows that knowledge is power, and that the easiest way to control people is to control what they know. The entity now moves to ensure further control over the populace by eliminating anonymous postings.

It is only through (1) comprehensive knowledge by the people, (2) the free flow of ideas, and (3) political leadership with consensus building skills that this area will progress. The newspaper should provide #1 -- anonymous forums will encourage #2 -- and maybe, if more people become involved through ##s 1 & 2, the leaders for #3 will emerge.

The O-D's action demonstrates what's been suspected all along ... they are more interested in playing politics than reporting it.


Brother Jesse (Dave) said...

I don't have a problem understanding why the OD closed down their forums to anonymous posters. Anonymous posters eventually cause trouble.
Did you think the paper was published by Peter Zenger? The OD is a business, not a Democratic Institution. Their business plan includes as little public service as they can get away with. Their politics are anything they think might build a better revenue stream and it's neither red nor blue, but green ... the old kind of green.

The OD doesn't want half its readership p**d off at the other half. The OD's intention is not to open a Fight Club, but to sell advertising to businesses who want to sell their product to the public.

Those who find the above lamentable are welcome to start their own newspaper. The street corners of the county where newspapers are sold are not the airwaves that are indeed regulated for fairness (supposedly) because there are only so many frequencies.

Anonymous said...

The OD's objective is to stifle public opinion when it doesn't meet their own objectives. The OD knows damn well that if posters have to reveal their identity that they will think twice before voicing an opinion that may not sit well with certain groups. The OD cares not about public opinion unless it agrees with their own views which are slanted to favor their friends. Thankfully, there are other forums & blogs such as this one where one can raise their voice without it being stifled by the likes of our local newspaper that wants to shut down the voice of the people when it doesn't go along with the status quo. That newspaper & publisher should be ashamed of itself for it's anti free speech attitude.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous posters only cause trouble for the ruling class wanting to keep information secret.

My fear with this new registration garbage is that by forcing people to put names, it will give the od the ability to further assist in political backlash for the truth coming out. I've been followed by a certain law enforcement agency because of work I've done to bring out the truth. Imagine if they had my personal phone number or personal address? I choose not to put myself into a situation where I'm arrested on false charges for political assassination.

Anonymous said...

The OD is taking positive steps to suppress negative information against the New Hartford Town Board and Carol Fairbother. Jimmy Olsen, AKA OD reporter Bob Brauchle is now a Pat Tiskinski’s cheer leader.

Clipper said...

When I was transportation manager at the OD several years ago, they had all they could do to publish a paper with a circulation of about 41,000 at that time, due to a worn out press and daily maintenance problems. Now, it is my understanding that they print not only the OD, but also the Herkimer Telegram, Little Falls Times and a Pennysaver.

Does it make sense to take a press that is incapable of running for two or three hours a day to publish a newspaper, and make it run around the clock in order to print the other publications?

I read the OD homepage daily from here in Tennessee in order to track the obits and local news stories from my hometown. It seems lately that more times than not, I open the page to find a notice to their customers in Utica that the "E edition" is available for free, because of delay or delivery problems with the printed edition. Take it from a former employee, that normally means that the press either broke down or they had problems with the web tearing (paper tears that stop the press)or problems with the equipment that puts the inserts in the paper and counts and bundles them for delivery.

It seems that the OD just continues to put on nail after another in their coffin as a viable newspaper. It matters not what kind of reporting and advertising you are able to garner, if you can't keep the press running long enough to put the paper on the street for people to buy and read.

This elimination of anonymous comments is just another step backward, such as was the discontinuing of the old discussion forums that were a very popular feature that was VERY active and had a huge participation. Unfair censorship and lousy management of the feature brought that well liked forum to a close.

Here in Bristol Tn, we have a paper called the Bristol Herald Courier. The circulation is about the same as the OD. They have managed their paper and their assetts well enough that over the last couple of years has brought a brand new German made press, and a new press building and distribution center outside of town. It seems to be simply a matter of poor management that keeps the OD down.

The OD needs to keep up with the times by changing Publishers, as do other papers quite frequently when circulation numbers drop or there are chronic technical problems. Our paper here in Bristol stays "fresh" and interesting and is always on top of the news. It makes the OD look like a newsletter printed by school kids. Terribly sad to see such a great publication as the Utica Observer Dispatch falling apart from the inside out mostly due to poor management, and the fact that the old Goss press should have been replaced 15 years ago or more.

I remember delivering the Daily Press in the 50's and 60's and the Utica Newspapers were a vibrant and busy place. They worked around the clock to put out the two papers, a morning and and afternoon edition. They did it the old way, setting type by hand and printing it the old fashioned way, and the paper was never late. It was always on time and a better quality than it is today.

Anonymous said...

The OD ceased being a real newspaper quite some time ago. And, anyone who does not think that the OD managers do not closely control content to direct public and personal preference policy has not lived here or worked there. That is why the good and talented can't wait to flee the OD. And, they quickly do.

Anonymous said...

The only answer to the OD is to boycott, force it out of business and encourage a successor with new management.

Anonymous said...

I guess Donna has not read the Supreme Court Decision where they indicate that an Anonymous poster has an inherent right.

Sorry Donna, you are way off base on your change of direction..if you ever had one.

Dave said...

I was just wondering if there was a hue and cry over the past one hundred years while newspapers did not allow anonymous Letters To The Editor. If so, I missed it.
If not, it was probably because most readers realized that in a Democracy they needed to take personal responsibility for their public remarks.

Anonymous said...

Great, Dave. Why not your full name? Why not Strikeslips real name? The issue here is that the establishment, particularly the political establishmnet retaliates against expression. People who speak out in certain ways are socially shunned and in many cases penalized economically. In many ways we are not living in a true democracy and many do not have the luxary of attaching full names to opinions. Furthermore, the idea and thought is much more important than the name. Think Publius and the need of the founders to write under created names.

Anonymous said...

and speaking of stepping madly backwards, what of the WKTV/Time Warner debacle?

Anonymous said...

As in other venues, we are learning that we are a small market. As we do not need nor merit facilities such as an "international" airport, the purely local TV station is a relic.