Hypocrisy and hyperpartisanship at the Herald-Times

By Scott Tibbs, January 14, 2019

If someone wrote a letter to the editor and I called the author a "terrorist" in Herald-Times comments, I expect my comment would be deleted, as it should be. Calling someone a "terrorist" is a defamatory statement, because terrorists commit acts of violence, destruction and mayhem to advance a political agenda. So why should a Leftist be permitted to fraudulently call me a "terrorist" in the comments for my letter to the editor?

The Herald-Times has long had a policy against libelous and defamatory comments. The so-called "newspaper" deleted several comments in 2011 when a Democratic activist accused a former Republican elected official of felony voter fraud for voting in the Democratic primary. (Indiana has closed primaries.) After that, the H-T said people were not allowed to use the word "murder" to describe abortion, even if no specific person was accused of a felony. I strongly disagree with prohibiting the word "murder," but at least I can respect the reasoning for that rule - provided it is evenly enforced. (Spoiler! That policy is not evenly enforced.)

If the Herald-Times did not have comment guidelines beyond prohibiting things like doxxing, direct threats of violence or illegal content, I would not object to the defamatory comment being left up. I would disagree with the lax rules, but at least the rules would be consistent. But that is not the case.

Here are the Herald-Times so-called comment guidelines:
• Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd or sexually oriented language.

• PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK. Increase the size of the font on your screen through your computer’s settings.

• Contribute positively to the conversation. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person. Don’t threaten, name-call, attack, degrade, demean or intimidate other commenters, Herald-Times staff or subjects in an article or editorial.

• Be proactive. Use the drop-down comment menu to report comments that violate H-T or Facebook policy. Comments that violate policy will be deleted. Commenters who repeatedly violate policy will be banned from commenting.
Source: The Herald-Times.

A previous version of the so-called comment guidelines looked like this:
"We do not permit obscene, libelous, harassing, racist, hateful, offensive or violent language or images. Further, we will not allow personal attacks on news sources, other commenters or our staff. Our moderators will determine what constitutes civil criticism and what is a personal attack. ... We also reserve the right to revoke the privilege to comment from any account that requires frequent moderation and does not comply with the spirit of civility."
Source: The Herald-Times.

By the Herald-Times' own so-called "standards" and moderation practices over the last 12 years, the comment clearly should have been taken down. I sent a polite e-mail to the editor when I saw the comment, and then tagged the editor and the Herald-Times in multiple Twitter posts criticizing them for not removing the comment. I reported the comment through Facebook and marked it as "spam." There is simply no way the H-T did not know about the comment. The so-called "newspaper" intentionally left it up.

The Herald-Times has frequently complained about civility in the comments in editorials. The so-called "newspaper" has permanently lost all credibility on the issue of civility, especially in their own comments. If the comments are a nasty place, it is because the so-called "newspaper" has intentionally chosen to make it a nasty place. I never want to see another editorial about civility from this bunch.

This sort of hyperpartisan hypocrisy should never be the practice at a reputable newspaper. If the Herald-Times will not clean up their act, Schurz Communications should force them to do so.

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