Mark C. Hartless: Policy is wrong
March 10, 2012
I think the Steamboat Pilot & Today's elimination of anonymous comments on its website represents capitulation to political, social and financial pressure from those who oftentimes find some comments from the rabble to be an inconvenient truth.
I understand the rights of any business to arrange its affairs as it sees fit, and I strongly support that right. However, I also expect a local newspaper would feel obligated to foster and protect an atmosphere where people can communicate ideas in the abstract without fear of reprisal. It is disturbing that a newspaper determined anything to be of more importance than the open discussion of issues.
I understand this is not a free speech issue. However, it seems that every day, more and more people forget that it is unpopular speech that needs protecting. Popular, soothing, uplifting speech needs no defenders. Of all entities, one would think a press would appreciate this notion. But alas, I guess what they say is true: Journalism is dead. I was wondering, why is it acceptable for a reporter to hide his source, even on historic cases such as Watergate, while the rest of us can only have a valid comment if it comes with our full name and address?
I also wonder if there is anyone who truly thinks a builder, for example, who has something critical to tell the community about the Building Department will dare do so now? If he does, will he find it easier or harder to get a building permit next month? What about someone who has business pending before the City Council or county commissioners? Does anyone really think they will dare say anything negative, even if it is completely true and even if the community really needs to know about it? Can anyone else see how this policy is exactly what dishonesty needs to thrive here?
The "sensitivity generation" is really turning this nation into quite a bunch of cupcakes. We now place more importance on not being made uncomfortable by someone's harsh words than on being informed and being able to speak without fear.
This action makes a group of relatively unimportant bloggers more accountable for their words in the imaginary and completely optional world of cyberspace. But in so doing, the Steamboat Pilot & Today is helping others to be less accountable for their deeds in the real world, some of whom set policy that affects the entire region. The most troubling aspect of this entire equation is how unlikely it is that the Pilot & Today's management would not have understood this, and even intended it. Frankly, I think you should be ashamed.
Mark C. Hartless