Saturday, December 19, 2009

The London Free Press sets the tone, Paul

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of The London Free Press, addressed the troublesome tone of some of the comments appearing on lfpress.com.

Dan Brown, the senior online editor at the paper, singled out those with the "worst spelling, grammar. . ." as being among the worst offenders.

Berton is right. I have seen some comments on The London Free Press/Sun Media site that I have found appalling. I thought the following warranted being pulled:

"So the key (to having a positive attitude) is for me to start smoking, pull my pants down and impregnate a teen girl?"

I e-mailed the paper suggesting this comment should be taken down. I did not get a reply, and the comment is still to be found proudly archived for posterity by the LFP. (Scroll down to: 2009-09-18 11:09:38)

I assume this means the paper did not find this comment distasteful; If it had been considered distasteful, Berton implies in his Saturday column, it would have been removed.

Maybe Paul will see this blog and reconsider. Maybe he can have Dan Brown, the senior online editor, remove it. This would be fitting as the comment is Dan Brown's.

. . . well, so much for the worst spelling, worst grammar theory.

 A few months ago lfpress.com, like all Sun Media websites, began allowing unmoderated comments on all local stories and many national ones. Comments are posted immediately without first being vetted by a Free Press employee.

The Free Press expects its readers to do the vetting, flagging inappropriate or offensive comments. Many of the questionable comments are racist, sexist and down on minorities, according to Berton.

Many contain, "a tone and language that would make a construction worker cringe." (Why pick on construction workers? I can name a few editors who, when given some truly bad copy right on deadline used to, shall we say, turn the newsroom air blue." Berton tells us that it's discouraging and depressing, and I agree.

To think The Free Press, a large paper in its own right and owned by the giant Sun Media / Quebecor group cannot afford to hire the staff necessary to vet comments. Instead they choose to give these verbal graffiti vandals a platform. Rather than hiring staff the media would prefer to risk being "sued for libel" or turning "off too many readers. . ." These are Paul's words.

Brilliant? No. But it is cheap. Please do not insult us by telling us that it is a way to "democratize the news."

During the day readers police lfpress.com for free; Then in the evenings and overnight the ability to comment is simply turned off. It is hard to believe, but come evening there are not enough bodies at the paper to remove the few flagged comments.

Do the math on the number of flagged London Transit strike comments as reported in Berton's column and you may be as surprised as I was:

950 comments related to the strike last week with from five to 10 percent of them flagged. (950 * 7.5% = 71 flagged comments last week.) As last week does not include Saturday, the column is in the Saturday paper, the average was about 12 flagged comments a day. How many of those would occur during the evening? One? Two? Three? And because of those numbers the mighty Free Press must turn off the comment mode.

Yes, it is all so discouraging and depressing.


  1. You wrote: "I once stayed in a hotel in which Abraham Lincoln had stayed. In fact, they claimed still to have the bed in which he slept."

    Question: Who is this "they"? They? They who?

    1. The "they" were the folk running the heritage hotel in Xenia, Ohio. Sadly, the hotel and all it furnishings was destroyed by the tornado that hit Xenia just a few years after my visit.

  2. I can name a few editors who, when given some truly bad copy right on deadline used to, shall we say, turn the newsroom air blue.