Trusted Commenters

Poor Nick, we hardly knew you…

So, Nick Gregory commits suicide. 1

Which, unless you live in NYC, doesn’t mean much to you; your local weather is elsewhere on the TV dial.

But fact of the matter? In New York proper? Ol’ Nick is ‘beloved’. His death hits family, friends, co-workers and a (certain) few viewers hard.

There’s a small catch though; the police report explicitly states Nick offed himself, yet his home network (MYFOXNY-FOX5) makes no mention of the circumstances surrounding his death. Neither does any other local NY station. Nick just “suddenly passed”.

Almost simultaneously, however, NY’s alternative weekly, The Village Voice, outs Nick’s suicide with an item on its daily blog. It naturally follows -like fleas on a dog- that the (mostly anonymous) commenters’ lament Nick’s passing (he was beloved, after all), with many of those voices finding ways -both real and imagined- to whittle down that standard 6 degrees of separation. 2

The commenters also take to task a.) The Village Voice for publishing a fact they weren’t aware of (Nick’s suicide), as well as b.) other commenters for i.) callousness, ii.) general japery, iii.) talking about Nick as though he suicided (because they weren’t thorough and careful readers), iv.) those who dis’ Nick for his suicide as thoughtless and selfish (because no one knows the pain and anguish that a suicide suffers…except them, of course), and finally, v.) all those who scoff at their heartfelt prayers (God’ll git them, wait n see.)

The local paper(s) write the standard file items (and, perhaps, obits.) A well known crank on the paper(s) decries the modern lack of civility, manners and those damn kids on his lawn.

The local Drudge-wannabe blogs also note Nick’s suicide. The commenters in those spaces are generally the very worst of the innnernetz trolls and act accordingly.

When the Coronor’s report is finally released (days or weeks later) 3 the details receive little attention. Perhaps but a ‘yawn – that’s so 5 seconds ago’. 4

And the world keeps turning. The sheer gossip value of Nick’s suicide was worn out quickly, people turned to other things. 5

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Here in KC, that’s just the start.

First off, KC viewers are…well, stranger.

I Respect dons family but I feel that what Fox doesn’t understand is we viewers were also part of his family too. We viewers are at loss for what had happened and are not able to process this without feeling betrayed by fox for withholding details that would allow us greiving viewers to move on the the next level of our own grieving process. Do as you feel you must but understand that we as viewers are completely at a loss also!

Ah…really?

In a city where there is a literal laundry list of ills one could volunteer to assist remediating as a means of achieving fulfillment, personal growth and emotional well being, your choice is ‘bonding’ to a TV weather person?

I suppose the stations encourage this “bonding” with their viewers, right?

It would seemingly assure the ratings drones that N thousands of viewers were watching their station, rather than the other stations, because the viewers felt part of the family. And that’s..well, not fine, but understandable, as far as it goes. 6

But when a person you don’t really know dies and you feel betrayed? I’ve always thought there was a fine line between social media and getting a real life; apparently the same goes for TV viewing in spades.

Then there are the Westies. I sure hope whoever is advising Harman’s family has already suggested that they get Don’s body planted ASAP (like NOW) else the Westboro Baptist Church members will invent find some reason to protest his funeral. It wouldn’t take much – just the hint of auto-erotic asphyxiation in the Pitch‘s comments would be enough to send the wing bats flying this way.

And finally KC’s Drudge-wannabe blogs will continue to stir the pot at any and every available opportunity. I expect multiple blog posts/Twitter mentions next year at this time, as well as a retrospective done by Fox4.

But, hey, that’s democracy for you: extremely messy and fundamentally rude.

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Of course, the if the Pitch and other blogs instituted the NYT’s new commenting system, some of this could have been swept under the rug avoided.

The NYT now has, as well as the same moderated commenting system they’ve always used, an additional system whereby one can become a “Trusted Commenter.”

It sounds magical doesn’t it?

If you are old enough you can remember submitting actual letters 7 to the Editor. Once in a blue moon 8 your letter would be printed. Your content had been deemed cogent, on topic and of worth to the ongoing conversation. You were, so to speak, a trusted commenter.

The Times has extended that concept into the ether. A good thing, right?

The jury’s out on that one I’m afraid. First off, in a wooly gambit at authentication, the NYT demands that you have an “authentic” Facebook account against which they can verify your identity. That whole notion set me to laughing for 5 straight minutes; I STILL have a Jet Li account on FB that gets “friend” requests on the order of a dozen a day.

Aside from iffy auth issues, FB is a sieve. No one with any sense puts real, personally identifiable information on the site. I don’t have a single knowledgeable IT friend who uses it for anything but a goof. 9

But my fave part of the NYT‘s system? It’s by invitation only.

That’s right, the Times has to extend an invitation to you to become a trusted commenter. An invitation it may revoke at any time…though I don’t know if all your FB friends go away as well; perhaps you’re just put into FB timeout…whatever that might be. 10

All of which means that the NYT is in effect pre-censoring the comments of the trusted commenters. Comments from your average schlub can (and are) simply moderated into the Ethernet’s dustbin, never seeing the light of a single pixel.

Other online news orgs are watching closely to see if the Times new system ‘works.’

While some local blogs are indeed the online equivalent of the Westboro Church, the NYT system is too much like censorship for my liking, too arbitrary in its framework and manner of its approval, too stifling to do itslef or our country any good in the long run.

No, I don’t believe the Republic is necessarily enhanced or made safer by the discussion on the manner of death of one local ‘celebrity’. I do believe not allowing that discussion, tasteless as it may become, damages the Republic.

Shame on the New York Times.

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Show 10 footnotes

  1. Okay, not really. But for the purposes of this post he did. Sorry, Nick.
  2. I understand the theory goes like this…I have met and talked with the Secretary of DOJ. He, in turn, speaks regularly with President Obama. Therefore, there are just 2 steps, by way of introduction, between me and Barry. Hell, we’re almost friends!
  3. Well after all the snark has subsided, well after the facts of Nick’s death have somehow leaked to the MSM (turns out to have been…well, it doesn’t really matter, does it?), well after the local news shows have run countless specials on the exact why and way Nick offed himself, with an emphasis on prevention.
  4. Or whatever the young ‘uns say when rolling their eyes contemptuously at your doddering self.
  5. Kim Kardashian’s divorce was a fake!
  6. Though that dynamic cuts both ways – I’ve heard from a few Weather Ladies about how uncomfortable they have been made by the untoward advances of their extended family, if you will. Not to mention the casually cruel behavior of a certain blog bitch. No, no names…let’s just say there is a breathless anticipation in certain quarters as December 7th approaches.
  7. Never mind, kids; it would take too long to explain.
  8. Or thrice, in my case, over a 5 year period of time.
  9. Other popular IDs include Speed Racer, SuperRay and Panchito Romero Miguel Junipero Francisco Quintero González III.
  10. Write on your Wall 100 times: I Will Not Snark Jill Abramson, I Will Not Snark Jill Abramson, I Will Not Snark Jill Abramson…

2 thoughts on “Trusted Commenters”

  1. as always I read here and there and even wondered why the same photo of the tkc lawsuit appears twice. re: trusted commenters is a dumb idea. all a person (tkc-clone) has to do is set up an alternate location, put up a link to the article and open comments. People are pretty inventive this way.

    1. re the casenet pic…we’re subtle here at WNBTv.

      re “trusted commenter” – there are so many things wrong with the idea i had to force myself to quit writing after 20 minutes. that doesn’t mean the idea will fail.

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