Oddly enough, newspapers seem to be having a difficult time dealing with free speech. The Los Angeles Times, for example, was paralyzed last summer when confronted with the realities of open-source information in its first reader opinion wiki. Similarly, the Washington Post experienced the rawness of cyberspace yesterday with personal attacks on the paper's ombudsman in a blog.
In both instances, the response was the same: shoot the messengers--or, in this case, disable the technologies that allowed the objectionable material to be published. It is certainly understandable that media outlets would want to thwart postings that they consider patently offensive. But is shutting down the forums their only recourse?
Policing public dialog is tough business, as News.com has learned well, and it is impossible to satisfy everyone in doing so. Yet one can't help but wonder how newspapers expect to participate effectively in the Information Age if their response to such challenges is so drastic.
Blog community response:
"So why if the blog at the Washington Post experienced the horrors from the left did they not just become stronger? More determined to take a stand instead of shutting down. True shutting down makes a bold statement too, but it is also a form of giving in which is more like taking two steps back instead of forward."
--PC Free Zone
"Should newspaper websites moderate comments/forums and take responsibility for editorial control over them, or should they call themselves distributors and let the flame wars burn what they may?"
--Ryan Sholin's J-School Blog
"Apparently the readers of the Washington Post can't handle the truth. They've been fed a party line so long they feel betrayed when 'their paper' criticizes the Democrats."
--Once More Into the Breach