Thursday, May 29, 2008

Morning Call Enables Anti-Semitic Rants

Last week, I told you about a meeting next week concerning the hate in Allentown, and by extension, the Lehigh Valley. Can Allentown really be a "No Place for Hate City"? That will be the topic on June 4 at The Palace Banquet and Conference Center, 623 Hanover Ave, Allentown 18109 (former Ice Palace Skating Rink). This breakfast meeting starts at the ungodly hour of 7 AM, and those interested are asked to register by calling Nicholas Butterfield at 610-437-7616 or e-mailing him at butterfield@allentowncity.org.

Most of us are disgusted by the racially-motivated assault against Allentown resident Kari Holmes, which has received scant attention from police or local media.

Scant attention is one thing. The knowing promotion of racism and bigotry is something else. And that's precisely what the suits who run The Morning Call have allowed.

All in the name of the Almighty Dollar. Morning Call columnist and blogger Bill White has candidly admitted, "The tremendous traffic on our Web site is a selling point for advertisers and future subscribers. And the comments, warts and all, attract a lot of those clicks."

Gee, I never knew that profit is a justification for bigotry.

Just today, The Morning Call Readers' Forum is spiced with a little anti-Semitism from someone who is just thrilled that the Neuweiler building owner has been arrested and jailed for unpaid fines.
"Fug the A-town slumlords glad to C the mayor taking action here we don't need anymore Scumbags like Mendelson. Hope they get their jewish asses beat down in LCP. Just guessing this guy is a jue."
That comment has remained untouched for five hours at the time of this post, and has undoubtedly read by thousands. If this was a once and done thing, I's have no problem. But it is a disturbing pattern, and the paper has ignored repeated requests to do something to stop it.

In its history, the Morning Call is known for charging Max Hess more than other advertisers simply because he was Jewish. Given its previous overt discrimination against Jews, I guess this more subtle form of discrimination - providing a forum in which unnamed others can spread hate - should come as no surprise.

But as long as this paper, one of the largest in the country, enables bigotry, Allentown will remain a place for hate. Perhaps this community dialogue can ask advertisers to stop using The Morning Call until it stops the hate.

The Almighty Dollar seems to be one thing that might get the attention of the Morning Call gods, who ignore the concerns of their own editors and reporters.
Update: The Morning Call Reader Forum rant about Jewish asses getting beat up in Lehigh County prison has now been standing seven hours. Isn't that nice?

34 comments:

A.J.C. said...

I can't begin to count the number of posts I've "flagged" because their were hateful and/or threatening. The flagging option rarely does anything.

Bill Villa said...

We just canceled our Morning Call "newspaper" subscription ... for the 2nd time. The first time we canceled it (13 weeks ago) they lured us back with a desperate offer of "how about for half price?" We took it, mostly to re-experience the wonderfully satisfying feeling of getting to cancel it again 13 weeks later. And it was well worth the (half) price to re-experience that great feeling. We hope they don't grovel and say "okay 75% off!" or "FREE!" this time ... although getting to cancel it again and again and knowing that we're contributing to The Morning Call dying a s-l-o-w death does have its allure ...

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bill,

I have to say I am very disturbed by its arrogant attitude concerning its reader forum. It could easily eliminate 90% of the hate by requiring people to register before commenting, as it did once before. Unlike the blogosphere, there is absolutely no interaction between those wo write and those who read. That is why it has descended into a lowest common denominator form of comment.

The paper was supposed to have a conference call or something with me after Christmas. That never happened. But I still feel just as outraged as I was back then. What bothers me most is that it has created an atmosphere in which the haters can congregate and feed off each other.

And if revenue is the justification for this, why not hit this paper where it seems to matter most - in the pocket book? This is what I intend to suggest at next week's community dialogue. Advertisers should boycott that paper until and unless the paper agrees to stop the hate.

In the meantime, that anti-Semitic rant is now up for six hours.

Valima said...

In NYC, channel 1 has a news show entitled Citizens Journalism or something of the sort. I am so close to breaking out the equipment and doing some real journalism. Like walking up to the APD and asking them why they are doing nothing about Kari Holmes or MR.A or anything else for that matter. Or asking the DAs office why they so blatantly ignore the cries of those who ask for justice. Then I'll hack into the feed of the digital billboard on 22for all the LV to see. :) <--wishful thinking

Anonymous said...

The Forum reflects the hatred of The Morning Call's online readers toward African Americans, Hispanics, and Jews.

The editorial page, however, often reflects the hatred of The Morning Call, itself, toward Catholics, IMHO.

Hatred is what hatred does. Sadly, there's a whole lot of hate surrounding everything the MC does.

And shame on Bill White. I imagine he'll work just about anywhere they'll throw him a paycheck. Perhaps some journalists have standards. I've walked away from two companies where their business tactics offended me.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that the No Place for Hate Meeting time seems to be suspiciously early. I hope it was not intentional. 7:00am is crazy, but I will be there.
Also, I have all but given up on the Mcall. I am unsure why they allow the hate blogs and if it IS due to the amount of clicks for advertising, then wouldn't it be considered almost a Hate Site ? (They are making profit from hate, right?) Now, I also know that sometimes the bigotry comes from the side of "we people of color". We get upset when there is a story about a shooting or robbery in A-town and there are immediately over 70-150 vulgar comments, but if there is a shooting at a local church or a drug bust in Emmaus or a robbery in Bethlehem and the assailant is White, then the comments tend to stay at 25-40. WE then tend to start a ruckus. Racial comments whether from US or THEM is WRONG and hopefully one day, people will see that we are all one color in the inside anyway, PINK.

Alfonso

Bill Villa said...

"Bill ... It could easily eliminate 90% of the hate by requiring people to register before commenting, as it did once before." -Bernie

Yep. And they can't claim 'not enough manpower' (or person power) to have someone at the Forum reading and monitoring the comments, because, as you know Bernie, via documentation from me and others, such as Retired ASD Teacher, someone at TMC Forum is lightening fast on the DELETE COMMENT button ... if you happen to post something they don't want other Forum readers and commenters to read. I recently sent you documentation of The Morning Call Forum having deleted seven (7) of my comments from a single post. And as you know, none of my comments contained any profanity or anything "offensive," other then being critical of a certain elected official The Morning Call refuses to lay a glove on, no matter what he does or doesn't do.

Anonymous said...

re: bill villa

I recommend the 13-week subscription deal/scam to everybody. It's a great way to make 'em pay. After canceling your subscription, you'll be begged to come back for 13 weeks at a reduced rate. Take the 13 weeks and cancel; buy a couple of days papers (if you must) at the honor box on the corner; in a couple more days they'll be back on the blower offering you the same trial.

One MAJOR caution, however. Make certain you cancel your trial and do not wait for the newspaper to do so. Any papers delivered after the 13 week deal and before they catch on are billed to an unsuspecting carrier who ends up paying for the sloppiness of the paper's marketing effort. Papers really abuse these people.

Why buy the hatred when you can get it online for free?

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

The MC forum is an awfully effective way for people to spread hate but also misinformation bordering on slander. When a public official I know complained about a total slanderous lie that was printed about him, they eventually took it off - but it took a very angry phone call and a threat to get it off. This should not have to happen.

Just as when you write a letter to the editor where you have to let them print your name and it is then verified by someone over at the Call, there should be a name registry rule so that this kind of behavior is eliminated. If they are indeed reaping financial benefits from this forum, they should be able to afford a designated "forum watchdog" who looks out for this type of hateful blogging.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:37,

Bill White said what he said, but he did clarify it later, noting "commenters should have to register and that people should flag those comments so they can be taken down as soon as possible." Bill also notes that I allow some "amazingly foul stuff" in comments on my own blog, and that's true. But I challenge readers who engage in hate speech. They don't get away with it. I'll even out them from time to time, if I'm lucky enough to figure out who they are.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The MC forum is an awfully effective way for people to spread hate but also misinformation bordering on slander.

It does more than border on libel. I've seen lots of defamation posted anonymously, and the MC is protected, as am I. Something in FCC regs. I actually went through a situation in which someone, masquerading as me, was posting all kinds of horrible stuff.

Anonymous said...

no, Bern the answer here is not censorship, but more free speach.


How many smug middle-class suburbinites live in a constant state of denial re the unfortunate vitality of racism in our society? at least the MC forums out the ugly racist bastards in our midst.

I have no love for the call, but i think they're right on this oen. censoring the forums won't eliminate racism. the current status quo at least exposes it in all of its tawdry, vile, mouth-breathing glory.

Bill Villa said...

" ... a public official I know complained about a total slanderous lie that was printed about him, they eventually took it off - but it took a very angry phone call and a threat to get it off." -anon 3:46pm

A "threat," interesting, now what public official would make a "threat" to a newspaper? And how much of a scary bully (to most people) would this guy have to be that the newspaper would cave to his brat-like and self-absorbed demand?

And what would the "threat" be? No more DUI Free Passes for MC reporters? No more trips to Shiatsu Massage as paid undercover informants for TMC Editorial Board?

Anybody have a clue as to who this bombastic and threatening bully public official might be?

Anonymous said...

We also cancelled our subscription to the Morning Call , this time because of not putting the paper on the porch as that was the selling point. They called and said would you like the paper , we said yes if you put it on the porch , they agreed and like dummy's we fell for it twice. Wet papers down the driveway and when we called about it nothing was done. Needless to say we cancelled , and told them the Morning paper is a habit that can be broke in a week. I now get my NEWS on line and don't have the aggravation the Morning Call has given us. They are slowly dying , that's a fact. I may not be a speed reader but I can go through that paper in twenty minutes , not counting the classified ads. Pretty sad.

hayshaker said...

I've never seen anything close to the quantity or quality of ignorance and stupidity of the mcall forum in this blog's comments. Never.

Most every article is tagged with some racist comment.

Anonymous said...

It may be hate speech or frankly just some goofs who are trying to get a rise out of peopple. Problem is free speech is free speech. Registration like at the Express results in little interaction as the pitiful responses on the Express sites show.
Who is to be the fimal judge of what is hate speech? Many people find half of what O'Hare posts as hate speech.
Let the marketplace of ideas run its course. I have seen some intersting discussions take place over the MC threads and Topix. Many people sort throught their ideas. In some cases you have wack jobs but that is what you have in a free society.
Ultimately, some here wish to set themselves up as some arbitor of what is and is not free speech, and no matter how you try to rationalize it - that is censorship.

Demothug said...

Valima, you make me wish I still lived in the Valley.

Your idea is quite interesting - live investigative journalism --- you know, Bernie could easily add a video file to his blog.

If you decide to do it and need some startup $$, ask Bernie for my email address.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Demothug,

Just send the money to me. I'll make sure Valima gets it. Really! It won't be like the last time you gave me money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

no, Bern the answer here is not censorship, but more free speach.

Your argument may be the correct approach. But the way it is practicved by the MC, it fails. If the paper is going to allow people to post anonymously, it has an obligation to be interactive, and it is not. These is where the blogs succeed. The poster and readers interact and discuss the story. If someone says something outrageous, he or she will be challenged.

With the exception of Bill White's blog and occasionally QCD and Micek, there is no interactivity. That's hjow we secend into a lowest common denominator pretty quickly.

Capitol Ideas said...

Just a quick explanatory note, everyone:

The Morning Call works hard to remove hateful posts from its online reader forums and has even closed the forums when remarks have gotten particularly hateful. This has happened at least twice that I know of with stories I've written, and has happened in other instances as well.

Unfortunately, because of the sheer volume of comments, it's impossible for the four members of our online desk to catch everything and do their jobs as well. The New York Times, for instance, has people who do nothing but monitor the forums. We don't have the resources to do this and that means things sometimes slip through the cracks.

Another wrinkle: The Topix forums are used by all Tribune Co. newspapers, which means that people from outside the readership area can jump on and comment. And that is often what happens.

As someone who comes form a mixed-faith family and intends to raise his children in two religious traditions, I am consistently saddened and angered by the anti-Semitic and racist comments I see on the forums.

But I will say that The Call is doing what it can to keep the forums clean. Any suggestion that the newspaper knowingly or actively promotes intolerance is incorrect and personally insulting.

Just my 2p.
John Micek

Bernie O'Hare said...

John (Capitol Ideas),

I no longer believe the MC " works hard to remove hateful posts from its online reader forums". Time and again, there are incredibly foul statements that just stay there. Frankly, I don't even like to look at Topix anymore and it does detract from your product.

If I saw a concerted effort by the paper to actually address this issue, I'd be much more understanding. But the paper has refused to even discuss it.

The MC is NOT doing what it can to keep the forums clean. It could do three things: 1) require registration; 2) take a much more interactive role, as you and Bill seem to get instinctively; or 3) only permit comments on stories that the paper has the manpower to monitor. It does not do any of these things. Not even close.

And let's not forget the history of your paper. Max Hess was required to pay more than other advertisers bc he was a Jew. Is this how the paper erases that image, by sponsoring a forum in which anti-Semitic rants are read by thousands?

For over a year, your paper has been told consistently about what goes on at those forums. I've pointed it our repeatedly and I am only one of at least a half-dozen indie bloggers to note the same thing. At some point, after refusing to do anything that will actually stop the hate, the paper becomes an enabler. You certainly are knowingly and actively promoting intolerance. If that personally offends you, then be offended. Are you all so fearful of your jobs that you can't open your mouths to your bosses? They can't fire all of you.

And frankly, I'm personally offended by the comments and by the remark that ad revenue makes that hate worth it. I've been offended for some time. So have most of us. Instead of giving us the same song and dance we've already heard for a year, why not do something already?

I have every intention of urging an advertiser boycott next week unless the paper takes one of the three steps I've mentioned, or comes up with some idea that will stop what has happened fro too long.

John Micek said...

Bernie:

Your points are well-taken, and I'll confess I'm not familiar with the case of Mr. Hess, and thus can't attest to its veracity (or not).

But I'll refer you to my earlier point -- we have four people on our online desk who are responsible for administering our Web page, doing online updates, posting radio news and keeping on top of forums. It's simply impossible for them to monitor everything all the time.

And, as I said earlier, when I've alerted them to particularly odious comments on the forum (and God knows, there's plenty of 'em), they've been swiftly removed.

And, again, in some cases, comments to stories have been shut off entirely when things got out of hand.

I do agree that the preponderance of hateful messages on the forums is just an awful thing.

But let me offer a counter-argument: that these communities should also be self-policing. As an earlier poster noted, the best way to combat hateful speech is by holding it up to the light and defeating it with more speech.

As hideous as some of these comments are, I'm still a little uncomfortable with the notion of censorship.

You're certainly within your rights as a reader to pursue a boycott if you think it'll be effective. But to suggest that we keep those comments up there because we're interested in making money is patently offensive.

Sorry, my friend, it just is.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John (Capitol Ideas),

Let's look at your arguments, one by one.

1. There are only four people at our online desk, and that's how hate speech happens.

The answer there is only to permit comments on as many stories as you can effectively monitor or to hire more people. The NYT, as you point out, has some folks whose sole job is to monitor comments, but even that paper does not allow comments on every story. You have to know that any story about crime in A-town will generate lots of hareful comment. If you can't monitor the hate, then don't allow comments at all.

2. Gee, I hate that censorship thing and just love free speech.

This is bullshit, by your own account. According to your own comments, you have alerted the online desk about hateful comments to be removed and twice were involved in shutting down the comment thread entirely. As you and I both know, the principles of free speech have no application to a privately run business, even when that business is a newspaper. If I'm wrong, then I intend to write all your editorials next week.

3. Can't you just engage the haters and expose them for what they are?

No. These folks are too entrenched and travel in packs. I've tried taking them on, only to be shouted down. I can combat it pretty effectively on my own blog, but not out there. This is where you come in. Why is no one from the paper taking on these haters themselves and pointing out the offensive speech for what it is? After all, it's your damn forum. In a forum sponsored by the MC, your words carry weight. But you folks do nothing.

You could easily reduce the amount of hate on your reader forum by doing any one of the following three things: 1) require registration (your colleague, Bill White, has advocated that in his post on this subject); 2) only allow comments on as many stories as you can effectively monitor; or 3) engage the readers and make it a truly interactive community instead of a lowest common denominator form of dialogue. There may be other things you can try, too.

But you've tried nothing. The same song and dance explanation has been repeated for a year. I've reached the point where I've concluded that the suits who run your paper like that ad revenue too much.

That is why the best argument to change minds is monetary. Next week, there will be a community dialogue in A-town about racism. I can guarantee you this subject will be raised, along with my suggestion that we ask advertisers to stop using the MC until it changes its ways.

John Micek said...

I'm glad we're having this discussion, because it is such a darn thorny and difficult thing.

I've long advocated for interactive chats between reporters and readers (the WaPo does this just about every week with its "marquee personalities," like Howard Kurtz, Dana Milbank and Carolyn Hax). To me, that's the best way of opening a dialog with readers.

And if it seemed like I was trying to have it both ways with the comments, the maybe I was. It's so darn difficult to balance the interests of the community against the legitimate right to free speech. I studied Skokie and other media law cases in grad school enough to know that. And I guess it reflects my own internal divisions in the matter. But fair cop to you for calling me on it.

At least you can't say I'm not being interactive. :)

Bernie O'Hare said...

John, you and Bill are both very interactive. There are some at QCD who venture forth, too. If others could tread on these waters, we would not be having this conversation and I'd have to rant about something else.

Bill Villa said...

May I make a suggestion?

Promote the person who deletes my comments from the Forum, John Micek's blog, and Bill White's blog within minutes after I post them to "Head Comment Boss" at The Morning Call. Whoever this person is, he or she is extremely fast and comprehensively efficient.

Anonymous said...

Micek's excuse for an explanation that they have just four staff at the online desk is appalling. I will infer what I believe he has implied, that hate is the price we pay for The Call's budgetary austerity.

At least John is forthright in his revelation that hatred and operating costs have apparently been compared in some twisted cost-benefit analysis that only J-school guys understand.

What do they say excuses are like?

Go Bernie.

Oh, for Pete's sake! said...

Why can't the MC just have forums on main stories or selected stories to the extent that their 4-person Web team can handle them? All others can be directed with a simple hyperlink out to Topix to start their own threads off the MC site. Topix lets you create and search for threads that are running about various topics, so our community news source doesn't have to be an enabler to racism or bigotry within its own pages, yet can still promote "free speech" away from its articles. The MC doesn't have to include such easy access to comment threads it can't control, yet it can still offer people a chance to voice their opinions elsewhere.

The MC screens which letters to the editor get published or not and prohibits offensive advertisements, The MC certainly uses filters in those cases. Why have so many forums if they run amok and ignore the paper's own standards of decency? They shouldn't bite off more than they can chew.

Please remember that children read the newspaper on line, too. What are we showing them about their community? Imagine what they must feel if they happen to belong to one of the groups targeted by vulgar, hate-filled, anonymous comments. The MC should do better by them. We all should.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

I appreciate Mr. Micek posting here with his view of this situation.

There is NO QUESTION in my mind, the Morning Call can eliminate 95% of the crap found on its site.

Like Bill Villa points out, The Morning Call had no difficulty in swiftly removing several posts I offered-up. Posts that I tried to keep scholarly, although opinions I knew going in would be different from what would come from The Call's illustrious editorial board.

Frankly, Mr. Micek, many folks are beginning to see right through The Call's effort to shape opinion by intrepreting/changing news on behalf of its readers. I would think this practice insults most any subscriber still willing to pay for a daily agenda that might not be consistent with their own eyes and ears record.

REPORT THE DAMN NEWS, that's all.

We don't need to know who you endorse for office, because in reality, fewer and fewer readers of your paper trust the purity of what you write.

I'm hopeful of a full house cleaning at Sixth & Linden. Till then, I do all I can among friends to blast the Morning Call's failure to perform in best interest of its citizens, choosing instead to create news it deems relevant for us to process.

Please recognize, the cover has blown off.

Bill Villa said...

The underlying and tragic corporate culture character flaw of The Morning Call is its total inability to admit to being wrong, about anything, company-wide.

Joe Hilliard said...

Valima,

If you are truly interested in your idea, I can put you in contact with a small video/media news organization based in Harrisburg.

email me if interested, jhilliardp61@yahoo.com.

Joe Hilliard said...

Alfonso,

Your post about racism being a two-way problem is quite refreshing and encouraging.

That is the type of honesty needed if we are going to work through all the B.S. of prejudice and racism.

I have been quite tired of hearing people claim that only white people can be racist. Such thinking only allows the disease of racism to continue.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted a comment with a link to a video about attacking Iran, totally irrelevant to this post.

Carlo said...

Good Job! :)