By Scott Tibbs, April 3, 2013
The Herald-Times editorial page has been a place of vibrant debate for many years, but a new restriction on what authors can write (as yet not publicly announced by the H-T) is puzzling and completely fails to accomplish its stated objective. Apparently, the H-T does not allow letters to the editor to criticize another LTTE author by name.
Ken Pimple posted in HTO comments a couple days ago that the H-T rejected a letter he had submitted because the new opinion page editor wants to "discourage calling out specific letter writer by name in print" because it "tends to focus more attention on personalities than issues or ideas." This would explain why a couple recent responses to me on the editorial page (January 22 and March 16) did not mention me by name.
LTTE writers have been mentioned by name for years, and the reasoning for changing the policy now is weak. If the Herald-Times is truly worried about civility, barbed responses and debates that focus on personalities instead of ideas, they should shut down HTO story comments. After all, the H-T has 100% total control over what is published on the editorial page. They have no control over what is posted on HTO other than deleting inappropriate comments after the fact. Especially troublesome commenters can be banned or suspended.
There have been times where LTTE authors have had false claims made about them, but not allowing LTTE writers to criticize another author by name is not necessary to fix that. In fact, that is easy to fix with basic fact-checking. Unverified claims about specific people should not be published - if someone makes a claim, that person must provide documentation of that claim in order for it to be published. Without documentation, the claim gets removed from the LTTE when it's published, or the letter does not get published at all.
But what is striking about the new "Pleasantville" policy is the wide gulf between it and the often-contentious debates on HeraldTimesOnline. Considering the things that get posted in HTO comments - including some absolute sewer filth that has never been deleted - not allowing people to respond to LTTE authors by name is the equivalent of swallowing a watermelon whole and choking to death on a raisin.