Monday, October 18, 2010

Crime Stories: The Star Is Not Enabling Comments

I've noticed a trend that I find a bit disturbing. The Kansas City Star has disabled the comment function in their internet edition on many crime stories. Here is an example for you.

The full headline is "Thieves apologize for mistaken break-in, but still take woman's rings and cell phone." Here's the story:

Four men who barged into a woman’s Kansas City apartment Sunday afternoon apologized because it apparently was the wrong home.
The mistake did not prevent them from stealing from the 41-year-old woman, who had been preparing lunch when her front door was kicked in at 1:20 p.m.
A gunman charged at her, screamed for her to get on the floor and pointed a handgun. Another man carried a crowbar into the residence in the 1500 block of E. 97th Street.
“Where is he?” the gunman yelled. The woman replied she didn’t know what he was talking about.
The gunman repeatedly demanded the location of “the money and the weed,” but the woman kept telling him she didn’t understand and that he must have had the wrong place.
The gunman asked who else was there and escorted the woman to her 11-year-old son’s room, where the boy was hiding under his bed.
“You’re cool, lil’ dude,” the gunman told him.
One suspect tried to take the boy’s video game system, but another suspect told him “not to take the kid’s games,” according to police reports.
Before fleeing, the gunman stole the woman’s rings and cell phone, saying, “I’m sorry.”

Feel free to comment on the Star's story. Please to avoid profanity and offensive language. Thank you. In the meantime, Kansas City Star, restore the comment icon to its rightful place in all stories, not just sports articles.


the observer said...

I'll start. The thieves are very sorry indeed. On the other hand, it could have been worse.

bill kostar said...

The "Star" could and should commit to increasing public awareness of the spiraling violence and murders in KCMO, but instead the paper carries water for the negligent officials that allow this carnage to continue unabated. Yael Abouhalkah editorialized that the farcial dog-and-pony show put on after the first Plaza episode was a wonderful start in addressing young people's ideas and requests. Not surprisngly, absolutely nothing followed. His latest observation was that crime is down in KC, which is certainly small comfort to the increasing number of families who are losing innocent loved ones to totally random and senseless violence, and in parts of the city previously mostly immune to such tragedies.
Meanwhile we get hard-hitting reporting in the Star of such activities at city hall as the rejection of the mayor's appointment to the parks board!
The Star should report each day's violence on the front page, and including the running tally of murders in a box next to the masthead each day might finally get some attention.
An election is just around the corner. Which of the candidates is sufficiently concerned and serious about this issue to make it a top priority of their campaigns? And specifically, what are their proposals? How can the police board, the city council, and the county collaborate more effectively and coordinate resources to meet this challenge?
It's hard to believe that the best we can do is simply to stand on the sidelines and watch the continued deterioration of safety in the entire city south of the river.
Then we can ALL make comments on the Star's website.

Anonymous said...

In fact, you've got this all wrong.

Maybe you should ask yourself, "Why aren't comments accepted on every story anymore?" Well there are two good reasons:

1. It's their website. They can do whatever the hell they want.

2. Because they know if it's a murder, or a tragic accident, the comments section into a disgusting parade of the worst, most idiotic stupidity humanity has to offer.

Certain stories followed very predictable patterns:

- Stories about DWI checkpoints turned into a blatherthon about individual rights versus public safety.

- ANY shooting in the inner city brought out the "thug" name calling, which is just racism on display.

- in fact, almost ANY story about ANY death, no matter how accidental or tragic, turned into some of the most disgraceful and uncivil behavior ever seen.

- plus there are always the people who have an ax to grind with The Star or are insane, like John Altevogt (both in this case).

So that's why. If you think about it for a minute or so - and don't you wish you had now? - it really makes a lot of sense. It's like cleaning up dogshit: better to not let the dog shit there in the first place.

the observer said...

You make really good points...and I thought about those things...but then I look at Crime Scene Kansas City. While it may not have the readership that the Star has, they allow comments on all the stories they post about (I do think they are moderated, which to me is OK. You comment understanding that you might be moderated.) Pitch's Plog also allows comments (also moderated). The reason I posted on it is because it seemed to me to be a relatively recent development. I can remember reading controversial threads on suicides, homicides and other crimes in the past, and now such comment opportunities are rare. I realize that people are sometimes assholes when they are on the internet. That's the price you pay for the freedom of expression. I hate the Ph*lps so called church, but they have the right to hold their nasty signs on public property.

Yes, the Star can do what it wants on its own site. Many times, Midwest Voices, the opinion blog, has no commenting. But I noticed this change in the news section and I didn't think it should go by quietly.

Thanks for commenting, even tho you disagreed.
The Observer

the observer said...

Oh, and anon 7:35 pm? That was a pretty good round of profanity and trying to provoke moderation, but it didn't work.

You will note that I did not tell you what sort of comments would be removed from this thread.

The Observer, still smiling

bill kostar said...

Thus it appears that William Rockhill Nelson's notion of "A Paper for the People" has been effectively spiked by his own successors. No wonder I ran into his ghost sitting on the Nelson Gallery's south steps with his head in his hands.

Bob G. said...

T.O. (et al):
They COULD always start their OWN blog or forum, if that many people have THAT much to say.

I do know that some commenters to newspaper story sites DO get way off topic.
They could just send some emails to the editors and get published that way, if they feel that strongly.

Just a thought.

Steve said...

All they need to do is put in their commenting policy.

"Surely you can find a way to communicate without resorting to profanity or delving into the gutter."

the observer said...

Bob G:
The letters policy has gotten restrictive too at the KC Star. Little by little they have been choking off the exchange of ideas and responses to news stories.

Blogging does help, as this very entry demonstrates!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting and hope your week is going well!


the observer said...


One would hope so...


Anonymous said...

I think The Star would moderate comments if they could, but they can't. Too few people? No. Too many comments.

So, I'm guessing they generally rely on other users to flag offensive comments.

And, I would imagine they found that sometimes it was just easier to shut off comments on stories where nothing productive could possibly be gained by letting comments go.

It's a good policy. Saying "Surely you can find a way to communicate without resorting to profanity or delving into the gutter?" That's wishful thinking...brings me back to the dog analogy. Take your dog for a walk and he's gonna shit somewhere.

Why not ask The Star? I'll bet you'd get an answer.

Anonymous said...

Also worth considering:

So maybe you should blame The Star a little less and consider the big picture more.

Also, cute kitten. Can't go wrong.

the observer said...

Anon 1234 10/20:

I don't blame the Star. As far as I know they have never announced a policy--it just happened over time that I noticed that there were more and more stories upon which comments had been turned off. A policy statement, such as what many of the organizations in the links did, would be helpful. I did very much like the last paragraph of the the Poynter article, which follows:

There's clearly not a "one-size-fits-all" solution to managing a productive online community. But, there are a few core principles to keep in mind:
*The community does need to be managed, and moderators need to be present, visible and involved.
*A "real identity" mandate might seem like a solution, but requiring a ''persistent identity" connected to a verified e-mail account may be just as effective.
*Technology is our friend, and advanced moderation tools, such as blacklists and reputation ratings, are helpful.
*Given the right tools and support, the community will often do a reasonable job moderating itself.

Thanks for the links and for commenting and yes, she's cute and a pistol!