Thursday, May 28, 2009

Apology for blocking citicism of the Mercury

ajnorman has taken me to task over one of my earlier posts about freedom of speech in which I said that we moderate posts on thisisleicestershire after they show up on the website, 'removing only those which we think create a legal issue or which are in some other way offensive.'

This is what he/she says:
'Or critical of the way the newspaper has covered a story. I don't know who does your moderating, but one of the things that has turned me away from engaging with the website is that even mild criticism of the paper is removed instantly, however well-justified, while all sorts of racist bile is left on the site (see all the pro-BNP comments today, or the comments on any article to do with travellers, for example).'
Firstly, let me apologise. I am sorry that we have removed any comment that was critical of the way the Mercury has covered any story, unless that criticism contained baseless personal criticism of a member of staff. I am assuming in this case that it did not since ajnorman says that we remove even mild criticism.

I promise you that is not my policy. I am happy to allow criticism of the newspaper - the guidance I have given to my staff since the day I arrived in February is that they should engage with readers who have an issue with our coverage. That is, if there is criticism of us on our site, leave it there and explain our stance and, if we got it wrong, apologise and correct it. We're not infallible, we make mistakes, sometimes factual sometimes on matters of judgement. As I said, if that has not been ajnorman's experience since I arrived, I'm sorry and, if you can let me have more details, I will look into your complaint more thoroughly. I would have replied directly to you, but I don't have any contact details.

In the meantime, I will remind those who moderate our site, of the way I feel.

I'll also take another look at your point about us allowing 'racist bile' in case we have misjudged that as well.

UPDATE 10.48pm: Checked for racist bile - ajnorman was right. I've taken the lot down. A few BNP supporters masquerading as lots of different people stimulating a thread that looked as if more and more people said they would vote BNP. Once I'd removed that, the thread made no sense, so had to take the rest down to.

I hate it when we get it that wrong. Sorry. (Stands back and waits for hate storm!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this - it is really refreshing to see an honest response. It's not worth raking over old coals (if that's the appropriate metaphor) - the story I had in mind was one a few months ago where the paper had been taking a convicted criminal's account of an incident as being truer than the police's account (one of those populist "have a go hero" incidents, which the police and indeed the court was more inclined to see as vigilantism and thuggery).

    Also, well done on removing the BNP astroturfing.


Thanks for commenting - all comments are moderated, but will only be blocked if they are foul, abusive or libellous. Keith