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Busy 'bad' news weeks; be respectful in web comments

Posted Saturday, August 29, 2009, at 8:24 PM

I've got to say that the past several weeks have been a whirlwind of news in our area.

Unfortunately, most of it has been bad, tragic, disappointing and some has been very discouraging.

There have been deaths or serious injuries associated with the shooting of a toddler, several vehicle wrecks, and a small aircraft crash.

To be honest, this glut of "big news stories"" in a very short period of time is probably something that I haven't witnessed very often in my journalism career.

Two of the stories moved on the major Associated Press news wire and were disseminated around the world. Major newspapers like the Atlanta Constitution, USA Today and Newsday carried stories that originated right here in Greene County.

I guess bad news is the nature of this business beast we call journalism, but as a veteran newsman for more than 30 years, it's still upsetting to me.

I love to write the "good stories," but I'm a realist and know that many of our faithful readers look more for the bad news than the good news.

I understand that.

Reader surveys and daily checks on the stories that you -- our readers -- most frequently turn to or view are what I would call "the bad news stories."

Wrecks, assaults, thefts, fires, drug busts and others arrests are the things you show us that you like to read about.

I often look at the Top 30 viewed stories that are on our Web site -- www.gcdailyworld.com.

For the year 2009, all of the Top 10 stories involve death, serious injury or fires.

Of the Top 30 stories viewed for the year, only two involve something that can't be linked to a disaster or a crime -- that was a story about former Worthington basketball star Krista Stahl (No. 27) and an entry where readers sent us their winter snow photos (No. 17).

Everything else was bad news.

As readers and writers we need to be reminded that the bad news we write and read affects people -- their families and friends.

We need to feel compassion and pain when these bad things happen.

We need to be respectful and thoughtful in the way we write the stories and the way you as a reader posts a comment on our Web site or writes a letter to the editor.

That reminds us that comments left on our Web site are often conflicting for us.

As journalists, we have the responsibility to allow our readers the chance to comment on the stories we write -- both positively and negatively.

However, as journalists and business owners, we have the responsibility to do all we can to make sure those comments are fair and not personal attacking.

That's a tough task.

I can attest to this fact, because I am one of small number of staff members who regularly monitor comments left on our Web site.

It's not practical for us to pre-monitor the comments before they are posted and sometimes some offensive and very hurtful comments sometimes slip through the cracks and get posted. Most of those deemed unacceptable are removed sooner or later.

Here's where the responsibility of the readers comes in.

That task is made more difficult because our readers can post anonymously using a self-created screen name. It's funny how people get really bold and sometimes not very intelligent with their comments when they know that the general readership doesn't know who they are.

Some on our staff do have access to the registration information giving us the name, address, e-mail address and telephone numbers.

We do make an effort to check out the information for validity and if it doesn't check out that person is deleted.

We don't share that information with anyone, except law enforcement agencies and only then on specific request.

We do appreciate every one of our readers and Web site viewers.

The numbers on our Web site continue to grow and that is encouraging.

For the year 2009, we have had 9,054,842 page views by 1,069,623 unique visitors.

This month has been a good one with 1,183,548 page views from 140,002 unique visitors.

We thank you for your loyal support.

Remember, no one has a simple right to post any kind of comment to any story.

You can't go off on some wild unrelated tangent. Please stay on topic. Too many times, we have found the comment section to be a place for bantering back and forth by posters who are more concerned about the grammar prowess of their fellow posters than about the topic of the story.

Posting a comment is privilege and with that carries some personal responsibility. We have deleted/banned some people from posting on the Web site when they abuse that privilege. That practice will continue.

Again, we simply ask you to be respectful and use some common sense.

I guess the best advice about posting comes directly from our Web site and its says, "Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read."

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com or nschneider@gcdailyworld.com. Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wordmaster1953 .

Showing most recent comments first
[Show in chronological order instead]

All that NObama stuff took the thunder out of this blog! LOL

-- Posted by Paul on Tue, Sep 8, 2009, at 10:41 PM

It would be nice to be able to post on the sport stories and give our area teams congrats and shout outs.

-- Posted by MinerChic on Sat, Sep 5, 2009, at 8:55 AM
Nick Schneider's response:
I agree.

I don't see why you have a problem with what stories we read, its getting you views. Its just nature for people to read the bad stories, im sure you read the bad stories to. Teenythomp is so right. I feel like a little school child.

-- Posted by JTFGREENE on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:43 PM

picking and choosing what we can comment on?? thats just normal for around here.....

-- Posted by teenythomp on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:22 PM

I'm with GarthHudson. NObama did it.

-- Posted by Paul on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 5:02 PM

Thank You for printing this story on being respectful to others . It was long over due.I Appreciate your on line paper very much.

-- Posted by NiceDay on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 4:14 PM

I blame Obama.

-- Posted by GarthHudson on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 3:32 PM


You can nominate me all the livelong day for whatever you'd like. I'll bet you can't guess just how much I care about the fact that few agree with me.

Petty, much?

-- Posted by sarah m on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 12:56 PM

The staff probably has to be more on top of comments than they are putting the correct names with pictures because there are no legal ramifications to having incorrect names with pictures. However, there are legal ramifications to libel.



1. Law.

a. defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

b. the act or crime of publishing it.

c. a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.

2. anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents.

The paper is the registered domain owner, and therefore, responsible for all comments that are left on this site. The site appears on hosting paid for by the paper. That is considered publishing. Legally it does not matter if the comments were made by one of their staff, or by a reader as the paper is responsible for all content on the site.

So they have a vested reason to pay more attention to potentially libelous comments than to a misidentified picture.

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 11:56 AM

The newspaper's Web site is a privately owned Web site ... no one has the "right" to post anything that the privately owned company doesn't want on its Web site.

If this was a publicly owned Web site (meaning tax money being used to support the Web site), then that's a different story. Everyone would then have the "right" to post.

Too many people get out of line with their comments, and spread rumors or take personal shots at people.

I hope the newspaper doesn't stop all comments.

-- Posted by playnice on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 10:19 AM

The *stories* are not all gossip, but many of the autonomously posted comments are. I'm going to use the Beard story as an example, just because it is freshest in my mind, not out of any personal viewpoints on the incident.

Before the comments got shut down, and in this thread, people have said things such as "I heard there was a juvenile present" "I am not surprised, have you seen his temper when he coaches", "the senseless drunken beating of a wife", etc, etc.

Those comments were not released as front page headlines, nor do they pass the measures that I am sure the GCDW tries to adhere to in terms of journalistic integrity. They are gossip and hearsay. Unfortunately, some people will let those type of comments influence their thoughts as to the guilt or innocence of a person, instead of leaving it to a court of law. And in the current comment format, the poster is able to say whatever they want to spout off, cloaked in the anonymity of the internet.

There is nothing to be gained by such idle speculation, and there is often harm done by it. In the case of Mr. Beard, the people who know what happened are the ones that were present at the time. Unless the laws have totally changed, if one person has any red marks, etc, and/or they complain of pain, the police are required to make an arrest. The "how" of those red marks is up to a judge to decide, not nameless forum posters.

Another example of that would be when the first reports of the tragedy of the boys from Scotland were posted. While the families and the community were still reeling in shock and horror, some people found it necessary to comment on how in their lofty opinion, the boys weren't being adequately supervised and charges should be pressed.

That type of malignant thought doesn't do anyone any good. It is a negative energy that the universe would be better off without. Of course, people are entitled to think whatever they want. But I think it is pretty safe to say that that same poster did not call up either of those mothers and tell them their opinion.

So why should the paper provide them a venue to do so without having to identify themselves?

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Wed, Sep 2, 2009, at 8:30 AM

Sarah m...I don't think these stories are just gossip. If they were, they would never have been released as front page headlines in a newspaper. A press conference was even held by the sheriff of Greene County regarding the Bohannon incident. I'm pretty sure, no make that POSITIVE, that the sheriff never would have "gossiped" just to "negatively impact" a so-called "innocent person". And if I do recall correctly I, myself, was the one that stated not all things are nice (topics, comments, or otherwise). Not to mention, but didn't Bohannon admit his own guilt, along with his girlfriend??

If I'm wrong, someone please direct me towards the Greene County Daily Gossip. I'd like to give that newspaper a quick glance.

-- Posted by just_a_girl on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 10:02 PM

sarah m, why is the term "recuse" used instead of "excuse"? Is it legalese?

-- Posted by Paul on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 6:44 PM

Just_a_girl, not all topics are nice. That's why people should have a trial and have their guilt proven before they are discussed. Otherwise it's just gossip and speculation that could negatively impact an innocent person.

The prosecutor recused himself to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. It was the professional thing to do.

-- Posted by sarah m on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 2:29 PM

@ playnice


Nicely said. :)

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 1:42 PM

Hmph. I think if you've put yourself into a situation for criticsm (Beard, Bohannon, child molesters, drug dealers, etc), then be prepared for it. If the topic will "cross the line" or become "too personal", then that's just too bad. Isn't "crossing the line" and becoming "too personal" the shooting and killing of a toddler by his own father? The molestation of an innocent child? The senseless drunken beating of a wife? True, not all of the comments posted are nice. Neither are the topics that are up for discussion. Just remember, no matter how nice a person thinks they are, nobody farts roses.

-- Posted by just_a_girl on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 11:01 AM

Freedom of speech gives you the right to say what you want in a public place ... if someone takes that away from you, then you're in trouble. Freedom of speech doesn't give you the right to post a comment on a private company's Web site.

Freedom of speech also allows the press to work without worry from the government.

There is a major difference!

-- Posted by playnice on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 7:20 AM

After reflection, Dtown, I agree. I must have written the comment thinking of the national scene.

-- Posted by Paul on Tue, Sep 1, 2009, at 6:33 AM

Give me a break, Dtown. "Cool" has nothing to do with it. Have you ever examined the focus of a tax story, how it breaks down, where the fractions go? I'm not calling anyone stupid when issues are complex. Just because someone is a writer does make him/her an expert. If you think for a second that a writer doesn't go to the auditor for explanations and/or to read the text carefully and then ask questions so the issue can be written up somewhat logically, you are amazing. You should seek office. We taxpayers need people like you. Both boards have lawyers to help explain things. Now I wish Nick would delete this entry and the previous.

-- Posted by Paul on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 9:06 PM

I agree with alot of the comments on this page. Why is it some stories you can comment all you want while others have no comments? Does the paper give special treatment to some while others they just dont care?? I for one agree that this is suppose to be a free country and was founded on freedom of speech no matter who you are, RICH or POOR!

-- Posted by Scorpio1969 on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 8:45 PM

People understand "tax increase" stories. I bet a few commentors on here are highly educated. But Paul, a idiot can see your calling people stupid, even calling the writers ignorant to a point, not cool.

-- Posted by Dtown on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 7:18 PM

RDK: People don't understand "tax increase" stories, so they can't comment on them. I don't know how writers can understand the issue, because the people voting for/against have no clue. The officials know only what the auditor tells them.

-- Posted by Paul on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 5:47 PM

I have to agree. Just dont let people comment. They can get on the website and read the paper and go to their hangout and gripe to the people over their coffee. Negativity breeds negativity.. One nice thing about living in America, you are innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. It is a shame that readers dont abide by this practice.. Give me a feel good story!!!

-- Posted by whatsnext on Mon, Aug 31, 2009, at 5:14 PM

My Granda would have told it the way it was - that is for darn sure. We may not like what she said but it was normally correct.

-- Posted by gary g on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 9:10 PM

OK, define the grandma thing on here, cause my grandma never cursed but yet theres the word damn in these comments? And I would never say that infront of her,rest her soul. But I myself check back on GCDW more frequently to read these comments. I think alot of people return to see if someone commented on there comment. So more comments more traffic this site picks up. And I apologize for using the D word.

-- Posted by Dtown on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 7:04 PM

rwkem... I agree totally with you.

Seems people are so unhappy that they can't

find happiness in anything.

Sad..as to what this world is coming to.

I think the GCDW has better things to do than

sit and watch the chicken coop all day.

meaning.... they know when not to open comments on certain stories... as the wolves would be all over it.

now go out and try to have a nice day..I know I will..

-- Posted by shadows on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 11:53 AM

Why, oh great Powers That Be, are comments NOT allowed on the Hargis blog? That's as innocuous as blogs go.

-- Posted by Paul on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 10:51 AM

I too always wondered about reader's choice of stories to comment on. You say statistics show 8 of 10 of the top stories last year concerned "bad" news. This can be seen daily. On the same day there could be a 2 stories, one about a proposed tax increase and the other about a meth head. The tax increase will more directly impact the reader, but no one comments. The meth head, who at best intangibly impacts the readership, gathers page upon page of comments. Are people just more mean spirited and negative now, chancking at the bit to spew negativity and hatred? What is the psychology behind this?

-- Posted by RDK on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 8:39 AM

It would seem to me a policy of "if it's to much trouble to monitor we don't allow comments." Just is another way of saying if it's a popular topic with negative comments we don't allow folks with a dissenting opinion to comment.

-- Posted by chevygleen on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 7:38 AM

I think with some of the feuding here even after what you wrote you should just not allow commenting period. I feel sorry for the families who have been through horrible or tragic events and there is always someone that posts negative comments. Even when there were stories about the local kids that were positive there were negative comments. Just because 1 person makes a mistake doesnt mean the whole family should be punished. This world has turned into nothing but negativity why is it we dont allow ourselves to just be happy..really it isnt that hard if we just try!

-- Posted by rwkem on Sun, Aug 30, 2009, at 7:26 AM

I'm with just sayin and playnice. It's pretty damn easy to post "your" opinion under an anonymous username. How about uncensored comments under ones real name?

Secondly, I love the new format. I nearly always read from my Blackberry and it was getting so bad that I just wouldn't bother as the page just wouldn't load. That problem has been resolved with the new format.

-- Posted by sarah m on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 3:47 PM

I wonder if all of you who are crying about not being able to offer your opinion on this website would do so as a letter to the editor in the GCDW with your real name at the bottom?

-- Posted by playnice on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 2:25 PM

Ohhhhhh, okay. ... Now I supposed you're going to tell me there's no tax on "2 cents worth."

-- Posted by Paul on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 11:51 AM

Paul, the Bloomfield News Blog is not associated in any way with the now defunct news source you are speaking of. Since apparently the GCDW did not approve of the link I posted you can simply do a google search using the keywords "Bloomfield News Blog" and it will take you to the site.

-- Posted by dorindaJ on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 10:52 AM

Hey hilljak, the tax on "2 cents worth" could be 3 cents, according to upcoming legislation to reduce the deficit. Of course, only the middle-class will have to pay it.

-- Posted by Paul on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 10:50 AM

As long as the county has only one paper and that paper gets to decide "acceptability" of comments,it is certainly a matter of free speech. Don't be censorial and don't shut the comments down. Set your guidelines. Require people to identify themselves with the comments they make. We have laws and courts to decide who goes too far. Your attempt to play Judge and Jury on comments was futile and a decision to stop allowing comments is more disgusting than bad news. James K. Fields, Rt.4 Box 384, Bloomfield, In.

-- Posted by oldeducator on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 9:16 AM

Thank you for clearing this up, I see this as a big change. It now has gone from "Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read." TO "if it is determined that the comments as a whole are going to be too difficult to monitor, then a decision is made to disable comments".

-- Posted by chevygleen on Sat, Aug 29, 2009, at 7:21 AM

Is free speech really a valid arguement when anonymous posting is allowed?

I tend to think that with freedom comes responsbility and accountability.

In other words, lots of people run their mouth behind a screen name that would not say the same thing when face to face with the person they are trashing in an anonymous post.

-- Posted by just sayin'... on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 11:00 PM

Of course the GCDW has no obligation to print or post certain comments or any comments. But if they don't want to appear as playing favoritism they will treat one man as equally as another.

A registered Democrat who believes that all men are created equal and that none deserve favortism.

Bohnnon has been crucified on these boards and no one at GCDW cares, but no one will even be allowed to offer a comment on Beard thanks to the unequal treatment by the GCDW.

-- Posted by CntryGrammy on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 9:21 PM
Nick Schneider's response:
We delete many unacceptable comments every day from all types of stories. A surprisingly high percentage to be honest. Mr. Beard is not receiving any special treatment in this case. We review all of the comments as a whole and if it is determined that the comments as a whole are going to be too difficult to monitor, then a decision is made to disable comments. We have done this several times in the past and will continue this practice in the future. We as a newspaper/website are responsible for all of the content. We try to approach it in a responsible, fair and unbiased manner. You may agree or disagree, but we are given the authority to determine what comments stay and which comments go.

As already stated, I am also disappointed in the fact that some stories are exempt from comments. There is also a certain Blog which cannot be commented on as well. I guess some subjects cannot be debated in an open forum here, even with civility.

I wonder if the main reason this site has so many hits is because of the interactive component. I know that's the reason I visit. I also know that when I cannot debate an issue here, or read what other people think, I lose interest, or worse yet, look for a reason.


jes my 2 cents worth (almost taxable now)

-- Posted by hilljak on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 9:20 PM

Everyone has a right to free speech. That doesn't mean that the Daily World has an obligation to print or post it! The decision not to allow comments on the Beard case is probably a good thing. Let him be judged in a court-of-law, not the court of public opinion. If he is found guilty, then public sentiment can take its course.

I would have suggested that the same treatment be given to Chairmen Lehman and Brown, but comments were allowed on their cases. When comments become personal attacks, then it's time to pull the plug.

As a registered Republican, I am neither for nor against Commisioner Beard. I would like to see him treated fairly under the law and should he be convicted let the justice be swift and fitting!

-- Posted by on the Blood trail on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 7:45 PM

I don't care how politically connected Bart Beard is; he doesn't deserve special exemption from comments any more than Bohannon does. WHY is Beard getting special treatment from the GCDW?

And yes I do go along with no obscenity, defamation of character and the rest. But people should be allowed to make comments on Beard if they are allowed to on Bohannon.

-- Posted by CntryGrammy on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 7:43 PM

i also agree with the beard arrest, why no comments allowed? i would like to know what other are thinking.

-- Posted by mike47441 on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 7:25 PM

I don't like the new format online for reading the paper. When I open the home page, half the page is blank. I liked it better the way it was. And I agree, why was there no place for comments on either story on Bart Beard?

-- Posted by grammyto3boys on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 7:16 PM

Drug addicted multiple felons that shoot their own children; and, drunks that physically abuse their wives, no matter how politicly connected they may be, do not deserve "respect". "Respect" must be earned. Some acts of man are so profane and so obscene that they earn only my wrath and my scorn. I admire people who are honorable and decent. Contempt and redicule is all the men described in the first sentence will get from me. And, anyone that protects them deserves no better.

-- Posted by Globe&Anchor on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 6:19 PM

Why aren't comments allowed in the Beard special prosecutor story?

-- Posted by Paul on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 5:21 PM

Being respectful is one thing, but when any hot topic is shut down because of the comments seems to go against freedom of speech. I thought newspapers were all about the practice of free-speaking. I think the GCDW needs to be a little more clear in what isn't allowed to be posted in the comments. It seems that many comments are disabled even though the discussion was being civil.

-- Posted by EggMan on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 4:40 PM
Nick Schneider's response:
The comments on Beard story and others in the past were disabled because some of those posting crossed the line and made the comments too personal, thus ruining it for those who were being civil and respectful. We do not have the staff to continually monitor all of the comments around the clock. That is the reason a decision was made to stop the comments on this story. We have made similar decisions on other stories in the past. In this particular case, the individual has not been formally charged with a crime and we did not want the case to be tried on this site. We will retain the right to decide on which stories comments will be allowed. This has nothing to do with free speech or freedom of the press.

Thank you Nick, I respect your paper and the rules. It has been a horrid last 2 weeks.

Nick, we all need a RECESS, go play on the playground, meet at the slide. Inhale and breathe again. Yet- Grandma will be watching.

Good Job to all at GCDW.

-- Posted by gary g on Fri, Aug 28, 2009, at 3:40 PM

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