Journalistic Overreach


 

Journalistic Overreach
 


30 May 2013 at 11:46:29 AM
salon

I was quite surprised to see that another local blog, one from Bosque County, Glen Rose Current,  had decided to discuss something I said on this blog but without attributing it to "Salon", which is what I post under here. My better half is involved in a project that I am not, aside from having (of course) an opinion about it. I thought the days were long gone when married couples were assumed to be working on the same projects, with the same ideas, 24 x7, joined at the hip and mind. Had I myself reached out to discuss, or been contacted by that blog, might have been a different story or I could have at least had the chance to say No. I do not regularly read that site; the reason I noticed is that my hub directed me to it.

But what I really want to talk about is the value of anonymous speech, which has a rich tradition in this country. Publius, anyone? This website was started with the idea that as long as the conversations remain civil and within a few boundaries, people can anonymously discuss an issue. That includes me. You will not find my name anywhere on this site. I post as salon. Does this mean that people may not know who I am? Yes, but for  about 4 years, I went down to government meetings, recorded them, and then posted excerpts on this site. I have no doubt that every person in those rooms saw me with the camera and, not being a shy person, I spoke with and know quite a few of them. So, it's not a matter of secrecy, it's a matter of internet privacy.

When I have written letters to the editor, I do it under my name and I am choosing to do that in that venue. I believe strongly also that if I were a member, say, of a PAC or some other political entity that was taking money to influence an election, that I should have that as part of the description under my name (as for example, Charlie Thomas's letters to the editor which didn't include the fact that he is treasurer of the Somervell County Hospital Authority PAC). As a citizen, I have the right of free speech to express my opinion about any subject and the newspaper has the right to say, WHEN I APPROACH THEM, that they will not print it if it does not include my real name.

That is simply not the case with the other blog. Despite the fact that I never contacted that blog to give permission to include me in an article, nor was contacted myself, the blog liberally quoted from this site and, when quoting, USED MY REAL NAME, rather than the name I post under here. I was astonished at this and requested that they please call me. The owner of that blog refused to call me on the phone with a baloney excuse that I am *emotional*  and said this, in part.

I do not, as a responsible journalist, agree to protect the identities of people who try to sway elections or petitions for election and want to hide behind a handle or remain anonymous. I told that same thing to XXXXXXX of the Anti-Tax Brigade when he would not go on the record.

Your picture is next to those posts and everyone knows it's you. So what's the problem?

I really don't want to discuss this with you over the phone because you tend to get very emotional and I think you're over-reacting here. If you want to write a blog and put your picture next to it, then you're already "out." You have put your name on letters to the editor opposing the hospital district. So I'm perplexed why you're upset about this.

Update: the  blog owner does not like that the email is posted here, although I did not put the real name on the internet and that person did not mark the email as being a private email. I originally had tried to have a phone call to civilly discuss, and left messages several times for a return call, which was shied away from. This email, attributed without a name to protect internet privacy, shows what the justifications are for doing this.

Let's just break this down.

  • 1. My husband sent an email to blog Glen Rose Current under his own name. He sent a link to his post under his own name on this site.He did not include me, nor should he have since it was something he was doing, not me. In our family, we presume that we are adults, individuals who can have our own projects, may share similar opinions, but might not. Believe it or not, we each have our own email, and don't monitor each other every minute to know exactly what the other did or did not send out. We might not, gasp, even vote the same way in an election! The email he sent to Current made him and him alone a possible source for the blogger there.
  • 2. I was not ever contacted nor did I contact the Current or anyone from the Current until the next day when I realized that, without any communication at all, the blogger had added me to the story about the petition EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT INVOLVED. That also did not make me a source.
  • 3. My real name does not appear anywhere on this site. If you go to domain registrar networksolutions.com to see whose name is registered for the site, you will see my husbands name and his only. I do not use my name on this site, not to try to be secretive but because of what I believe to be my choice about how I want to have my name appear in search engines on the internet. I want, and I'll bet you do too, as much as possible to control, for INTERNET privacy reasons, how my name shows up. I do not make any attempt to hide my identity locally, nor have I ever, and locally, a lot of people know me in a number of different contexts, including from this site, but that is different than on the internet. I'm not unusual in this, as many people post with handles on the internet so that they can express opinions. I know people that work at businesses that use a moniker on the internet because they want to anonymously express opinions on the internet. Go look at most internet sites-like this one, Gawker- Think "Taint Nuttin" is a real name?   Or how about "chevettesforever" ?  But the  Current blogger believes it is her duty to reveal ON THE INTERNET who someone is, that anyone that ever expresses a strong opinion somewhere on the internet cannot do so under an anonymous name.  She'll be real busy, eh? She also appears to believe that only if one is a whistleblower, a seeker or political asylum or a victim of sexual assault is posting anonymously all right. Tell that to James Madison.

The issue is also the venue. I choose, on the internet, to use Salon as my posted name. Yes, a photo is with it (it is a cartoon, folks!) , and yes, in person a lot of people know me, which is good. I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of being secretive; otherwise, why the fool would I have had this site for the last 7 years? But if, within the context of Somervell County Salon, my name NOWHERE appears, seems to me that quotes from my opinion as posted from here, under fair use rules,  should be under the posted name of Salon. It is not a matter of being *outed*, it is a matter of respect,.

Both my husband and I believe strongly that when there is donated money behind an initiative, all persons involved should be exposed. Thats why we questioned why some letters to the editor from Charley Thomas and Ron Hankins did not include the information that they were contributors to a PAC (Political Action Committee). We ourselves were approached at one point by someone to ask if we knew how to do a political action committee. I certainly don't, and hub not only didn't do one, but was never asked about it again. We are not involved in any PAC, do not contribute money to any PAC, did not help form a PAC and never have represented ourselves as a PAC or any part of one. (Update: Reminded that, in fact, we have donated to a presidential election PAC at the national level). Heck,  the people who formed the Somervell County Hospital PAC didn't follow the rules, so deciding to do one is not a trivial pursuit.

That is entirely different than a private citizen exercising his or her freedom of speech.I have to wonder if some people would be harassing John Madison or John Jay for posting the Federalist papers under the pseudonym "Publius". Some individuals of that time may have known that those were the people actually publishing those articles but the idea of being able to post an idea anonymously is an honored one. I believe it's particularly critical in a time when ability to read a writing extends to all ends of the earth via the internet, with some writings not having an expiration date when they will disappear from view.  Too bad it's not honored by all.

  • 4. I repeat that I was never contacted by Current so the comment about the Anti-tax brigade person simply doesn't even apply. Sounds like the blogger actually TALKED or communicated in some way with that person, who then told her that he wanted to be off the record. No idea what she did or didn't do, but I'm really amazed that she would tell me his name in an email. That seems hugely irresponsible because I believe this person really may have been some kind of source, and she blabbed his name to me, a disinterested party. (Update: it occurred to me that she may erroneously believe that hub or I are associated with the Anti-tax brigade and that's why she included the name of the person who *is* associated with it. Assuming that might be true, that is laughable if it wasn't evidence of poor investigative practices. )
  • 5. Does having a strong opinion and expressing it, hoping that you might sway an election make you a target to be exposed in all respects? Please. Any time ANYONE expresses an opinion, he or she believes in that opinion and that does not make it someone else's job to harass that one for expressing it. Again, last I checked, freedom of speech didn't have a subclause that said people should be harangued for talking.
  • 6. I do have a strong opinion about spending our tax money in Pecan Plantation in Hood County. The blogger decided to come over and lift paragraphs to put on the Current site and then, instead of using the name I use here to post by, put my real name. Again, I was not a source to her for this, aside from her deciding to copy what I said and post it, presumably by the fair use standard. She also, incredibly and hypocritically, posted a comment made here by one of our valued anonymous commenters, named Human Being without feeling compelled to hunt down that commenter and identify him/her by real name. I kind of wonder if she wanted to make it appear that people from this site were voluntarily participating on hers; if so it would be a false and misleading impression.
  • 7. I asked the blogger to please take my real name off that article, and that, if the person wanted to quote some things I have written on this site, to please attribute it to *salon*. After much back and forth, in which it was unbelievable to me that I had to argue with her, she finally said "I have done as you requested... because I don't want a vendetta between us".That didn't last long, as she then decided, again without a word to me, to post about me with my real name, twice on the Current Facebook site. So much for integrity. She is also allowing ad hominem attacks that include me.  As the editor of the Glen Rose Reporter put it in her editorial regarding online comments and Facebook anonymity, which is this same principle of respect for online identities....

Finally, I would not consider myself an investigative reporter for revealing someone's identity in such a fashion. I would instead question my own character and also be concerned there could be legal (or moralistic) ramifications for making such a call.

Am I emotional? Yes. I originally felt pleasant because I thought the blogger would realize the error and quickly fix it. After having to press the issue repeatedly, I started to feel angry, but thought the right thing was being done when the blogger removed my name.  I feel pity at this point since the blogger decided to pursue a vendetta against me on FB. As the Reporter said, this type of action does reveal character... or lack of.

P.S. I have updated this post several times, which is one value of online writing. Here is part 2.


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Comments!  
1 - pharper   30 May 2013 @ 3:04:41 PM 

Reminds me of the pictures of poeples yards in the paper...


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2 - pstern   31 May 2013 @ 3:40:54 PM 

Agree with you on this one, although I always use my name when I write.


Latest Blog Post by pstern -Who funds ISIS?
3 - salon   1 Jun 2013 @ 8:36:13 AM 

Pstern: Yup, because it's your choice on this site.The owner of the Bosque County blog clearly does not understand the issue. I"m glad the Glen Rose Reporter newspaper does.


Latest Blog Post by salon -Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Parents Birth Certificate Rights (6/26/2017)
4 - pstern   1 Jun 2013 @ 10:42:38 AM 

It used to be that most editors would NOT let any comments be submitted without a real name attached to it.  Now, anonimity is the rage for fear of reprisal.


In the immortal words of Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind"

 

"Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn!"

 

 


Latest Blog Post by pstern -Who funds ISIS?
5 - salon   1 Jun 2013 @ 10:50:07 AM 

And that is part of this issue. I didn't ask, nor was asked or even approached,  for comments from THIS site which does allow anonymous comments (but screens them first) to be posted on some other site. A different site may have a rule that there are no *handles* but who was trying to be on that site? Not me, despite the fact that that site lifted positions posted here under *salon*


Latest Blog Post by salon -Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Parents Birth Certificate Rights (6/26/2017)
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