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Thread: Edits and forum management

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    There is a large difference between "I'm censoring/modifying what you posted" and "having violated our rules, you may no longer post here".
    There certainly is, but I consider the former preferable -- at least for a first-time offender -- if it can be done with minimal intervention (a scalpel rather than a chainsaw) that leaves the substance intact, since the former approach permits the poster to voice his/her views, while the latter approach bans him/her completely. Moreover, the former approach remedies the use of abusive language while the latter approach leaves the abusive language intact and merely warns about the future. The fact that the former approach requires mature and restrained judgment is no reason to rule it out in favor of a much more draconian approach.

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    There certainly is, but I consider the former preferable -- at least for a first-time offender -- if it can be done with minimal intervention (a scalpel rather than a chainsaw) that leaves the substance intact, since the former approach permits the poster to voice his/her views, while the latter approach bans him/her completely. Moreover, the former approach remedies the use of abusive language while the latter approach leaves the abusive language intact and merely warns about the future. The fact that the former approach requires mature and restrained judgment is no reason to rule it out in favor of a much more draconian approach.
    Several of the rules are highly subjective, e.g. "Do not post merely to generate anger and hostility in other posters". If those charged with enforcing the rules were objective, non-partisan administrators with the time to pre-screen every post -- pushing unacceptable posts back to their authors for revision -- then sure. But having some active participants able to modify the posts of others is not open discourse.

    At minimum, the core of rule 3 -- "Do not change the content of another user" -- should apply to all participants.

    Dave

  3. #48
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    I'm still confused about the DF "policy" regarding use of names. Kim, can you please comment on the following?

    Q01: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official who spoke at a public meeting? YES updated 3/4

    Q02: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident who spoke at a public meeting? NO updated 3/4

    Q03: Is a town official speaking to a topic not part of his/her official purview covered by Q01 or Q02?
    a. For instance, a School Committee member speaking to the issue of common residential/commercial tax rate

    Q04: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official who spoke at a private gathering?
    a. For instance, a party or reception

    Q05: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident who creates a public record? Does it matter which type of public record?
    a. For instance, a communication to a town official that does not reach a quorum of town officials
    b. For instance, a communication to a quorum of town officials
    c. For instance, a communication to a town employee
    d. For instance, a public records request

    Q06: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official from a different forum? YES updated 3/4
    a. For instance, a newspaper letter to the editor

    Q07: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident from a different forum?

    Q08: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase, including the official's name, an article from a different forum that references a town official? YES updated 3/4

    Q09: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase, including the resident's name, an article from a different forum that references a resident? NO

    Any other questions we should be considering?

    Note that Q05 came up at the 3/1 School Committee meeting. The Committee discussed a public records request submitted by a resident. One Committee member started a conversation about whether it was appropriate or allowable to mention the name of the resident making the request. The Committee consensus was not to do so, but to my knowledge, there is no prohibition on mentioning the name, since the request itself is a public record. Interestingly enough, a second resident subsequently made a public records request for a public records request submitted to the Committee.

    I'm interested to know what DF members think about whether the Committee should or should not mention the names of residents making public records requests, or for that matter, making statements/communications of the type in Q02, Q05a, Q05b, Q05c, Q07, and Q09. Put another way, should boards and committees adopt the same protocols as the DF?
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 03-04-2010 at 10:56 AM. Reason: Updated with what I think is the DF guideline

  4. #49
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    Jeff, this whole thread discusses the topic, and as you can see, we have not so completely defined our standards.

    Our approach has been to try to be minimalist when it comes to moderating. We have removed threads or edited posts to date under only the following conditions:
    • a post to the General Forum was made under a pseudonym (which can no longer occur)
    • a post was deleted at the request of the poster (with the approval of any others who had posted on the thread)
    • a post was edited to remove the address and phone number of a participating member (at his request)
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate on the forum. A link was retained which referenced these individuals by name.
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate in the forum. The individuals were not public officials and their names were not material to the discussion.


    I think that's it, though it's possible I've missed a few (please feel free to post here if you know of any examples I've forgotten). We have tried to not edit posts. The examples above were handled with scalpels rather than hammers as much as possible - to enable surrounding discussion to be retained and to make sense. We have tried to respect the privacy of private individuals balanced against the legitimate desire to have full and open discussion. There has certainly been debate as to whether we have struck the right balance.

    I welcome input from others on how they think Jeff's examples should be handled. We should perhaps develop a more formal policy.

  5. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q05: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident who creates a public record? Does it matter which type of public record?
    a. For instance, a communication to a town official that does not reach a quorum of town officials
    b. For instance, a communication to a quorum of town officials
    c. For instance, a communication to a town employee
    d. For instance, a public records request


    Note that Q05 came up at the 3/1 School Committee meeting. The Committee discussed a public records request submitted by a resident. One Committee member started a conversation about whether it was appropriate or allowable to mention the name of the resident making the request. The Committee consensus was not to do so, but to my knowledge, there is no prohibition on mentioning the name, since the request itself is a public record. Interestingly enough, a second resident subsequently made a public records request for a public records request submitted to the Committee.
    I'll take a stab at Q05

    If a resident files a public records request then that request is itself a public record.
    If the board is discussing the public records request then it is legal to mention the name of the requester.
    However, the board should weigh the necessity of mentioning the name of the requester against the affect it could have on chilling future requests or creating a 'scarlet letter' affect. It is best to try to refer to the requests with a code like a date or the person as a she/he.

    What is interesting is that one could create a public records request which tries to get the documents filed by other public record requesters. This process can go on and on and nest to infinity I suppose.

  6. #51
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    I agree with Alan on this.
    While it would have been legal for them to do so, I commend Louis Jurist and Jeff Dieffenbach for pushing back when fellow SC member Malcolm Astley asked - not once, but twice - why they shouldn’t announce the names of the people from the public who had requested public documents.

    Malcolm suggested that this should be a “two-way street” – that rules that apply to members of the committee, should also apply to members of the public. I disagree.

    Alan’s Scarlet Letter analogy is apt. Considering how quick some people are to criticize and attempt to marginalize anyone who should have the audacity to express an opinion in this town, it is no wonder that people don’t want their names mentioned where they don’t need to be. The SC calling out these names could easily be seen as intimidation and could have the affect of discouraging people from exercising their right to request public documents.

    While requestors’ names are public record and anyone could find out if they really wanted to, no good can come from the SC announcing them, and doing so would only exacerbate a sometimes tense relationship between the public and the SC.
    Kudos to Jeff and Louis for recognizing that fact and acting accordingly.

  7. #52
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    Next to each of the cases that Kim cites, I've matched back to my set of questions and/or made a comment (in bold blue).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Our approach has been to try to be minimalist when it comes to moderating. We have removed threads or edited posts to date under only the following conditions:
    • a post to the General Forum was made under a pseudonym (which can no longer occur) I agree
    • a post was deleted at the request of the poster (with the approval of any others who had posted on the thread) I agree (having done this at least once)
    • a post was edited to remove the address and phone number of a participating member (at his request) I agree
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate on the forum. A link was retained which referenced these individuals by name. The DF answers NO to Q02 and Q09 edited, I originally wrote Q08 by mistake, and was remiss in not including Q02
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate in the forum. The individuals were not public officials and their names were not material to the discussion. Same as preceding case


    I welcome input from others on how they think Jeff's examples should be handled. We should perhaps develop a more formal policy.
    I would like to see a more formal policy that includes the objective of the policy, the policy rules, and examples. I struggle a bit with the official/resident distinction. A newspaper would certainly not hesitate to include the name for all of the cases above, with the possible exception of Q04 if there had been a condition of "off the record."
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 03-04-2010 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Correction, enhancement

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    While it would have been legal for them to do so, I commend Louis Jurist and Jeff Dieffenbach for pushing back when fellow SC member Malcolm Astley asked - not once, but twice - why they shouldn’t announce the names of the people from the public who had requested public documents.

    Malcolm suggested that this should be a “two-way street” – that rules that apply to members of the committee, should also apply to members of the public.
    In my opinion, there was absolutely nothing but earnestness, equity, and a desire to learn what's appropriate underlying Malcolm's remarks.

  9. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    What is interesting is that one could create a public records request which tries to get the documents filed by other public record requesters. This process can go on and on and nest to infinity I suppose.
    Does the town charge a fee to fulfill these requests? Could be a real source of revenue! :-) (just kidding!!)

  10. #55
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    Town officials, employees, and suppliers are entitled to charge a fair rate for work required to respond to public records requests.

  11. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Next to each of the cases that Kim cites, I've matched back to my set of questions and/or made a comment (in bold blue).
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate on the forum. A link was retained which referenced these individuals by name. The DF answers NO to Q08
    • a post was edited to remove the names of individuals who were mentioned by name who do not participate in the forum. The individuals were not public officials and their names were not material to the discussion. Same as preceding case
    I believe the applicable Question #s for the items above are Q09 and Q02, respectively.

    The distinction, in my eyes, between an elected official and a private resident is the degree to which they have implicitly agreed to public scrutiny. It is clear to me that someone who runs for and is elected to an official position is agreeing to scrutiny of their performance in that position, and they therefore must allow critique of their words and actions in that role. (Your question about their words and actions in other roles gets a little more murky)

    It is true that an individual who speaks at a public meeting is opening themselves up to public scrutiny as well, but it feels to me like a different hurdle. We should not be evaluating that individual's performance when they speak, but it is certainly fair game to critique the issues they raise. Certainly newspaper articles see these comments as available for quoting (or paraphrasing), and they will reference individuals. However, if an individual approaches the reporter afterward and asks that their comments not to be attributed to them by name, reporters will generally honor that.

    In most cases, people who speak at public meetings know their comments are publicly available, if not in writing in the newspaper, then perhaps on local cable. But they do not, and should not, expect to be the subject of personal critique. I have no problem with people mentioning individuals by name when done respectfully and fairly. That doesn't mean, however, that I wouldn't feel compelled to honor the request of an individual who wanted their name protected (just as the reporter might in the example above if asked)

  12. #57
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    I updated my "Questions" post with what I think is the DF policy. I look forward to hearing more thoughts on some of the remaining cases.

  13. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm still confused about the DF "policy" regarding use of names. Kim, can you please comment on the following?

    Q01: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official who spoke at a public meeting? YES updated 3/4

    Q02: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident who spoke at a public meeting? NO updated 3/4

    Q03: Is a town official speaking to a topic not part of his/her official purview covered by Q01 or Q02?
    a. For instance, a School Committee member speaking to the issue of common residential/commercial tax rate

    Q04: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official who spoke at a private gathering?
    a. For instance, a party or reception

    Q05: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident who creates a public record? Does it matter which type of public record?
    a. For instance, a communication to a town official that does not reach a quorum of town officials
    b. For instance, a communication to a quorum of town officials
    c. For instance, a communication to a town employee
    d. For instance, a public records request

    Q06: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a town official from a different forum? YES updated 3/4
    a. For instance, a newspaper letter to the editor

    Q07: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase a resident from a different forum?

    Q08: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase, including the official's name, an article from a different forum that references a town official? YES updated 3/4

    Q09: Is it okay to quote/paraphrase, including the resident's name, an article from a different forum that references a resident? NO
    Jeff, I'd like to highlight that regardless of what we come up as our official policy, all of these things are "okay" for a poster to do (as long as done fairly, of course, particularly as regards paraphrasing rather than quoting). I think the only issue we're talking about here is when an individual asks for protection.

  14. #59
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    Point well taken. That said, the less frequently posters put "innocent bystanders" in the line of fire, the less frequently you need to wield your scalpel.

  15. #60
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    Why isn't it acceptable to quote or paraphrase a resident's comment at a public meeting? If a resident speaks out in a public forum on an issue, it may very well be relevant to me who the speaker is. For example, there are people in town who do their homework and a thoughtful analysis before making a public statement, and, there are people who, for me, simply don't have as much credibility. In other words, it can certainly be a material part of the story, and should, in most cases, not be censored. I don't think that a person who either supports or criticizes a proposition in a public forum ought to have an expectation of privacy with regard to their opinion. They are publicly entering the debate and attempting to influence the opinions of others, and it is fair for others to publicly respond to them. As an example, if a prominent person in town, who is not a public official, publicly states an opinion on an issue, shouldn't it be fair game for someone to point out in this forum that such person may have a conflict of interest with regard to that issue? And, I don't think that the litmus test ought to be whether or not the person utilizes this forum. It would be like saying that the Globe should not mention a person's name unless that person reads the Globe. It is easy enough for someone to contact the person and point out that their public statement is being discussed on Waylandenews. They would then have the option of responding if they choose. On the other hand, I think that it is legitimate for the editorial board to develop and enforce rules of civility, and to prohibit and censor name calling, ad hominem attacks, ridicule, attempts to embarass, and other things of that nature.

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