• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 27, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    An unhappy blog commenter writes…

    Hugh Linehan

    I received the following correspondence last week by email. The writer has kindly consented to me publishing and responding to it here.

    Dear Online Editor,

    Your blogger “Jim Carroll” frequently claims to conduct his discussions with a view to listening to all sides. However this is not the case. In fact, he abuses the position of power you have given him both by trying to intimidate people who post unfavourable comments and – when it suits him – by censoring them completely.

    As you will see from what follows, unless opinions pat him on the back or allow him to further his own agenda he:

    a) Responds in a condescending, bullying manner
    or
    b) Refuses to post them

    It is his blog and therefore he may feel entitled to do so. But it is also an Irish Times blog, and I would be very surprised if the newspaper condoned this kind of abuse of the position of power it has attained.

    Either way, I think it should be pointed out to you that he engages in this practise.

    Similarly, I think it should be pointed out to the other people commenting on the blog that their ‘stream of consciousness’ merely looks like a broad heralding of approval because it has been designed to be so.

    I posted the following to his article

    “If you’re going to apologise for all the mistakes in the article, I’d
    have thought that the biggest one was where it said that Cathy Davey
    won the Choice Music Prize. Naturally, I was surprised that you didn’t
    remember who did, seeing as you were the officiator – but maybe you
    had too much of Jape’s Champagne and got him confused with her
    (although Cathy didn’t have a moustache the last time I looked). Or
    maybe she actually won and you owe her 10 grand. Or is she next
    year’s top tip – and should Paddy Power close the book before it’s
    opened?

    I was doubly surprised that you’d notice another error but not this
    glaring one – but it suddenly made sense. You don’t actually read the
    Irish Times do you? And funnily enough none of the commentators on
    your blog do either. Madam will not be pleased.

    Comment by Ralph P”

    His reply now reads

    “Ralph P – what apology for what mistakes? Just pointing out a clarification that needs to be made – and I sure as hell am not apologising for that.

    As for the photo caption error, you may not know this but journalists don’t write those captions so that error occured at the production stage. I’ve passed this onto the appropriate people to be corrected online.

    Comment by Jim Carroll”

    However, this is a very different reply to the one that the comment had initially been given by Mr.Carroll. In this, he made it clear that he had gone to the trouble of tracking down the location from which I had posted, which seems most unusual (unless there I was uploading child porn, in which case it would, of course, be understandable).

    In the light of this, I posted the following – or rather attempted to:

    “Jim. What’s going on? Earlier, you had posted the following reply to my comment:

    ‘Ralph P – that error happened in a photo caption, not in the piece, and has already been passed onto Madam.

    Good to know you students in UCD read the paper though. You are The Future, after all’

    Passed onto (sic) Madam? Onto her head perhaps?

    Actually, while grammatical errors are irritating, I was more concerned by your reference to UCD. Were you trying to intimidate me by letting me know that you had checked the IP address from which the comment had come? And why was the comment subsequently changed? Were you told to stop cyber-bullying students? Do you really think it’s big and clever to go around telling people that you know where they live/work/study?

    Either way, your new comment is condescending in the extreme. “You may not know this but journalists don’t write those captions.” So who writes them: automatons? Are editors or sub-editors or whatever they’re called not journalists too?

    Not meaning to be pedantic, your new answer also repeats the same grammatical error. For future reference, it’s: ‘on to’. The ‘on’ is connected to the ‘passed’, not to the ‘to’. Unless you’re talking about getting onto the bus…

    The fact is that the reference in the Irish Times to Cathy Davey winning the Choice Prize was incorrect. And if you were aware of it, why did you not clarify it earlier?

    Thus, your comment ignores the central point I was making: aren’t you embarrassed about not reading the newspaper that employs you? I know I would be.”

    In what is an obvious piece of censorship, this comment has not been posted to his blog, nor has he acknowledged that he edited or rather changed his earlier comment.

    I would like this clarified to the readers of his blog, either through the corrections & clarifications column in the Irish Times or through a posting on his blog by the online editor.

    Thank you.

    Ralph P

    ********************************************************

    Dear Ralph,

    Thanks for your mail. I’ll try to respond to the points you’ve raised.

    First, the points we agree on. As a fellow pedant, I deplore Jim’s misuse (twice) of “onto” and will have a stern word with him about it. In the same spirit, may I take the liberty of pointing out that, when you say Jim “engages in this practise”, you are making the common but no less regrettable mistake of confusing “practise” (the verb) with “practice” (the noun).

    As to the thrust of your complaint, I do not accept that Jim abuses any position of power he may have. Nor do I agree with your characterisation of his responses as condescending or bullying. And finally, I don’t agree with your description of his refusal to publish one of your comments as “censorship”.

    Let’s go back to the original conversation. You wrote:

    “If you’re going to apologise for all the mistakes in the article, I’d
    have thought that the biggest one was where it said that Cathy Davey
    won the Choice Music Prize. Naturally, I was surprised that you didn’t
    remember who did, seeing as you were the officiator – but maybe you
    had too much of Jape’s Champagne and got him confused with her
    (although Cathy didn’t have a moustache the last time I looked). Or
    maybe she actually won and you owe her 10 grand. Or is she next
    year’s top tip – and should Paddy Power close the book before it’s
    opened?

    I was doubly surprised that you’d notice another error but not this
    glaring one – but it suddenly made sense. You don’t actually read the
    Irish Times do you? And funnily enough none of the commentators on
    your blog do either. Madam will not be pleased.”

    Is this a friendly, conversational comment? Does it add to the sum of human knowledge? I humbly submit it does not. It’s a bit abrasive, not particularly pleasant and casts aspersions on Jim’s ability to do his job(s). In the cut and thrust of online banter, it’s within the bounds of what’s generally seen as acceptable, which I suppose is why it was approved.

    Which is all fine. But it’s a little rich to complain then about Jim’s “condescending” reply. What did you expect? Is there a rule that states bloggers should accept and publish whatever’s flung at them, whatever the tone, and only respond with amiable politeness?

    As for identifying your location, this is a simple process available to anyone using a WordPress blogging platform, and Jim has used it effectively in the past to point out that certain anonymous posters may have particular agendas. I don’t think UCD has any particular stake in the Isn’t New Irish Music Great debate, so I don’t know why he did it in this case. But I honestly can’t see how it can be characterised as “cyber-bullying”?

    As a matter of interest, would you have made the same comments at the outset if you were not anonymous? I ask because I find myself increasingly of the view that the disadvantages of anonymity far outweigh the advantages when it comes to providing a forum for online debate conducted with some civility.

    The cut and thrust of online debate is often a lot edgier and more personalised than you’ll get in traditional print or broadcast media. However, the same standards apply online as do in our newspaper. But, as with the newspaper, there may be substantial differences of tone across different sections, depending on what is most appropriate to the subject matter or the platform.

    In the case of all our blogs, writers publish, edit and moderate their own blogs but are answerable ultimately to the Editor through me as online editor. They are permitted to edit their posts and comments, if they wish to do so on reflection. They also make the decision on whether or not to publish individual comments. To describe this as “censorship” seems to me to misunderstand the meaning of that word. If commenters feel they are being unfairly treated, they always have the option of contacting me directly, as you have done.

    I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to the points you’ve raised, as they are important ones for us to consider. But in this context, I do believe the accusations (condescension, bullying, censorship) are simply not justified.

    Two last quick things: I don’t know (and nor is it any of my business) whether Jim regularly reads the print edition, but since he was at In the City in Manchester that week, it’s hardly surprising he was using the online version. And yes, as a former sub-editor, I can confirm that they are indeed journalists (but don’t get me started on the whole writer/sub-editor relationship thing).

    Best,
    Hugh

    • Peter says:

      Jim has censored me in the past too when challenged about his missed opportunity to take a stand against all-in-ticket prices, a cause he purports to support. Another mean trick he uses (which is part of the blogger’s power i suppose) is to hold off on posting comments until he has his reply ready to post immediately thus killing off any potential debate before it starts, or any attempt to contradict his, at times, narrow-minded opinions.

      The words condescending and bully are probably a bit harsh, but not far off.

    • Delboy says:

      Good response. Ultimately, anonymous posters forfeit the right to be taken seriously. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t put your name to it, don’t bother writing it in the first place.

      Cue awkward pause.

    • Who Is Kevin Courtney? says:

      Disappointed to see an editor stand over Jim Carroll’s IP address defrocking. I sympathise with bloggers who have to reckon with special interests and anonymous posters (like myself, admittedly) but listing out the commenter’s location is generally highly unusual and here adds absolutely nothing to the quoted argument, however petty. While there’s nothing unethical about the practice, it strikes me as ‘sketchy’ and gives the opinion that Carroll fights dirty when people annoy him (see Kitt, David).

      His blog is often of a very high quality.

    • Darragh says:

      Would it be just too postmodern to post a comment on a blog about comments on comments on a blog…? My head hurts. :)

    • Sean says:

      I really can’t see what “Ralph P” (if that’s his real name) is on about. Anyone who reads On the Record knows that the comments are a robust arena and not to be surprised if Jim Carroll calls you out on something. After all, as you say above, where’s the rule that bloggers shouldn’t respond in kind to snippy, rude students?

      This kind of interactivity is the reason why On the Record is the most read and best respected Irish Times blog – Jim always responds and always gets involved in the comments.

      Your other post calls for suggestions about interactivity and the like. Maybe you should Jim to give a crashcourse to the other bloggers about how to do this?

    • j murphy says:

      Hi Hugh,
      I agree that some of Ralph’s original e-mail was abrasive and I don’t believe what Jim did was censorship. However, I believe the mentioning of the IP address by Jim is very much a ‘we know where you live’-style tactic. I would be interested to know why Jim changed this post removing his reference to UCD? Why reference UCD at all otherwise?

    • Shane says:

      Interesting stuff.

      Broadly agree with Hugh on the condescension point. As Ralph P was more than a little snotty in his original post, he should have at least expected something similar in return, even if you might not expect the tone from an Irish Times journalist.

      It’s certainly true that web correspondence is edgy. If it’s not quite anything goes, it’s certainly a lot riskier than traditional media, so it is naive of the poster to criticise in this regard.

      However, I would strongly disagree with Hugh’s flippant disregard of the IP issue. Finding out the location of the poster is not the issue – as he says, this is simple for anyone using WordPress, Google Analytics, etc.

      But I would argue in this case that Jim Carroll’s sentence – “Good to know you students in UCD read the paper though. You are The Future, after all” – is a cack-handed attempt at some level of intimidation. It may not be on the same threatening level as the “I know where you live” guff that street gangsters deploy, but it’s hardly grossly unreasonable for the recipient, in this case Ralph P, to take in that manner.

      Regardless of how slight this “cyber-bullying” may be, it’s out of place on an Irish Times website and completely unbecoming to the organisation as a whole.

      Shane, Kells.

    • Dave D says:

      @ J Murphy

      “However, I believe the mentioning of the IP address by Jim is very much a ‘we know where you live’-style tactic. I would be interested to know why Jim changed this post removing his reference to UCD? Why reference UCD at all otherwise?”

      Looked more like a dig at him being a student than anything. Probably sounded like a bit of friendly banter in Jim’s head but then when he saw it published he realised it would be interpreted as snarky and changed it.

      I’ve commented on Jim’s blog for years and I’ve always found him alright. Gets a bit narky sometimes but, running a large website myself, I can sympathise.

      My main problem with OTR is that half the time I get an error when I submit a comment.

    • Patrick O'Sullivan says:

      There’s a strong element of “crying to the teacher” about some of these comments, particularly the one from Peter. Of course, Carroll is robust and narky and brusque – that’s why On the Record is such a must-read blog. Plus he knows his subject matter inside out.

      If people can’t handle it, don’t comment. Haven’t loads of blog readers called for more interation with writers? If Carroll wasn’t responding, readers would then accuse him of ignoring them!

      Also, “even if you might not expect the tone from an Irish Times journalist”… what’s the tone you expect from an irish Times journalist? John Waters? Fintan O’Toole? Vincent Browne? Tom Humphries? Mary Hannigan? Roisin Ingle? Is there such a thing as a specified “tone” for an Irish Times’ journalist? I think readers need to be told.

    • Trich says:

      Is this a reflection of the discontent within you three?
      I see the benefit in being open and conversing.
      It clears the air and something is achieved.
      As nothing is, by being silent.
      Peace? Now? Boys…………….?!?

    • Brian says:

      Having regularly followed but rarely commented on the blog, I have seen Jim do the IP address before but only as a result of him publishing his comments in the first place. Safe to suggest that Jim feels similarly to Hugh regarding internet anonymity? If so, not a policy I would particularly agree with but I would draw the line on suggesting it’s stalking just like for the above case I wouldn’t call the replies particularly condescending or bullying. Like Shane above though, it doesn’t always leave a great taste in the mouth particularly when the comments are more moderate.

    • europhile says:

      Practice/practise? Perhaps Ralph is American.

    • Aisling says:

      Don’t complaints over ‘we know where you live’ somewhat miss the point? They do know where you live. And you’re only deluding yourself if you think otherwise. Therefore it can’t really be intimidation to state that, can it?

    • Major Alfonso says:

      At a slight tangent, in defense of anonymity, might I say that there are perfectly rational reasons for adopting pseudonyms (not just on the internet). There was a fascinating debate about identity and facebook that emerged during the summer when Zuckerberg claimed in an interview that part of the point of Facebook was that people had one concrete identitiy (Here’s a decent window on the issue). A number of responses pointed out that this is NOT how people operate on a psychological level, we maintain multiple identities for friends, family, lovers, strangers and so on, and that’s not falseness, it’s simply how human beings operate. To mash that altogether in one facebook profile that that girl you scored in the nightclub AND your mother read is non-sense. Similarly, I might shout something in a protest that I might never shout alone in the street if I were on my own. If you use your full proper name on the internet you are traceable to a frightening degree. I know a large number of people who no longer even use their full name on Facebook so that employers etc won’t find them out and add them as friends. There is no information on my Facebook that I wouldn’t want out on the wide internet.
      A friend was looking for a room to rent, she looked looked up potential housemates on google and facebook and discovered a huge amount of information about people who were otherwise complete strangers. The internet where everyone knows you’re a dog is a frightening thing.
      As for the IP thing, Dave D’s comment ( #8 ) makes sense and I second the motion to make sure the comment submission form more reliable! Watching where visitors are coming from can be good fun, there’s a good post on thestory.ie today reflecting that.
      In any case long may Jim blog and banter in the comments

    • Brian says:

      Jim is now directing readers of his blog to this blog so as to be able to comment on the above (commendable indeed). However, he’s still referring to Ralph P as “the poor, delicate, wee lamb”. He also says ” Regular OTR readers will know that there’s a certain amount of give and take with comments here – as in, if you have a pop at me, don’t be surprised if I have a (much better written) pop at you…”

      In this context, I really don’t think there’s a need to be commenting on some people’s less than perfect grasp of the written word.

    • webstar says:

      If you transfer the pro OTR comments above to the political arena then the message very clearly is ‘don’t analyse don’t criticise’…run with the herd or put yourself outside the ‘golden circle’…
      By way of comparison the BBC welcome criticism as a form of improving it’s product/delivery…and take the view that if someone is suficiently ‘bothered’ to sit down and write/complain then their complaint deserves to be taken seriously and not dismissed in the rather crowing/sneering manner exibited on the OTR blog in response to this matter…
      I am a little disappointed by Hugh’s response as I had thought him an ‘honest broker’ but I suppose if someone is you blogbrother you’re not going to find against HIM for some no-mark poster…no disrespect Ralph..
      OTR appeals to a specific demographic (Tabloid mindset) and does not brook any criticsm…resorting to gratuitous ad hominem insults when challenged…. it is quite cringeworthy to read the snivelling apologies when one of the faithful have the temerity to break ranks and disagree with the blogfather…
      Sometimes the moderator should be just and have the judgment to know when to engage and when to stay out of the arena…
      Ralph has had the courage to go public on this and incur the wrath of the ‘dude’ camp…that shows character…
      if he is dissatisfied with the response then there are other remedies available to him…the PressOmbudsman/Complaints Commission….
      Perhaps that would be a more objective arena to appraise of the merits or otherwise of the matter…

    • Dave D says:

      webstar… not sure which OTR you’ve been reading.

    • Mike says:

      I am a regular reader of OTR but have only contributed once to comments and after what I felt was an awful experience have never done so again. The debate was about promoters and I found Jim to be very confrontational and I felt bullying. That might sound dramatic but his behaviour left enough of a bad taste that I never contributed again. He didn’t post some comments from me which lopsided the argument to his point of view which I felt very unfair. Ralph P may sound churlish to some people but I too felt Jim can be a bit of a bully.

    • anthony says:

      finally someone has called jim on his I know where you live tactics.it has always petty and unprofessional.

    • Beergutz says:

      So Ralph’s an American….

      Torch bearing mob to assemble in Belfield to hung down the Yank!!!
      Dissent will not be tolerated

    • liberata says:

      I’ll never forget the IWD blog… his hostile gratuitously offensive response to women when challenged about his sexist comments…
      Ditto involving/encouraging other posters to ridicule those who objected to his sexist comments implying feminists were ‘dykes’ and/or suffering from penis envy…
      Also the link to a pornographic tabloid photgraph from The Star during the UK May elections…

    • Nerraw says:

      OTR is a great blog with the comment sections being an essential part of OTR. Some of the comments here are hysterical such as “awful experience” and “courage to go public.” It’s a bloody comment section.

      Total non issue and a typical case of playing the man not the ball

    • Sam says:

      There are either some very sensitive souls amongst the On the Record blog readership or a lot of bands which Jim Carroll has slated.

      ‘Bullying’? Such PC rot. If you make a comment on a blog,you should be able to take the reaction from the writer, especially if he robustly defends himself. If you make an anonymous comment on a blog, you should also know your IP address will be known to the blogger. As one poster said above, many of these comments smack of people running crying to the teacher.

    • Hugh Linehan says:

      webstar@16 and liberata@21. Our readers should be told that you are the same person, using two different account names. I am bringing this to their attention because: 1) I can’t see why anyone would want to use multiple names in what I hoped would be a frank and honest discussion of the issues and 2) this seems to illustrate the problems I mentioned around anonymous commenting.

    • Dave D says:

      Tell us where they live, Hugh!

    • JD says:

      ’ll never forget the IWD blog…what or whose blog was that?

      thanks

      jd

    • Teddy says:

      Ralph P wasn’t the greatest example to use for this supposed discussion, he stuck his chin out and got popped, a couple of times . And yeah, his original post was pretty “abrasive” and smarmy. So zero sympathy. But Jim’s odd, condescending retort about students from UCD being able to read and being “the future” is a head-scratching clanger — but a good example of his occasional catty and obnoxious remarks that do clearly bend noses out of shape. Edgy, says Hugh, arsey, says me.

      The fact that he’s redirecting traffic here, bragging “if you have a pop at me, don’t be surprised if I have a (much better written) pop at you…” and mocking Ralph P — whoever you are! as a “poor, delicate wee lamb” gives the impression this isn’t likely to be much of debate of any consequence. It seems more like a gleeful invitation to enjoy a post-mortem.

      RIP Ralph P!

    • Peter says:

      @18: my comment @1 was related to pretty much the same thing. I sent 3 commens, 1 was posted online with a “witty riposte” from JC. Agreed that Ralph’s example wasn’t the best but it highlights how “Ireland’s best blogger” (TM) plays dirty when faced with someone who doesn’t hold his unique world view. ralph should be applauded for bringing this whole debacle to light.

    • paul m says:

      @28, i think there is a point missing here in that Jim’s blog is not a forum for democracy, neither is this event a debacle. You walk into his OTR blog where he proposes the topic of the day and if you challenge his opinion then you are open to scrutiny of yours, even if that means with a tone of voice you might find offensive, or harsh. House rules. Jim engages in lively debate that yes can often get quite personal (as personal as you can get with anonymous posters) but this isn’t news to those who regularly follow his blog. People are fans of his writing and opinion and part of that is the tone of his delivery along with the angle he takes on the topic. Don’t like it, there’s no need to rant about it to him, just don’t engage in it. “change the channel Marge” as a great man once said.

      Which brings me to baiting is one of the nastier sides of blogging, i’ve seen it rampant on all blogs and forums, and the Irish Tmes blogs aren’t exclusive of that. If you come into a discussion for the first time all guns blazing, its not as if the blogger knows you’ve been sitting quietly in the corner of the room fuming at whats been written. Thus provoked the reader then goes on a disproportionate rant, when composure and a bit of a well founded opinion, hopefully backed up by fact, and if not at least some wit, provides for a much better contribution to a topic. As the debate continues you can then ratchet up your fight for the cause, and people will see that for what it is, an impassioned debate rather than a one off explosive rant. Its not a boxing match – round one. fight!

      A lot of people really need to re-read what they’ve written at least twice before they post. Help settle the nerves, check you don’t sound like a foaming lunatic, and maybe even fix some grammar!

    • McMahon says:

      I had a long comment to make but paul m @ 29 has said it for me much better than I could myself.

      Still, now that I am here – OTR is a brilliant, engaging, occasioally frustrating (when you hold a different view to Jim Carroll) and always enthralling read. That someone like Peter calls it a “debacle” smacks of sore loser to me. You went there, you had a go, you were bested. As paul m says, move on, change the channel. I’m sure you’ll find other blogs which have the same view as you who will welcome you with open arms. But then, they’re not as well read, well written or well regared as On the Record, which is why people who disagree with the tone and views of Carroll are always eager to give it a kicking like this. It’s the tall poppy syndrome. Long may Carroll write and entertain – and annoy some people.

    • Teddy says:

      @28 Peter — Beware a blogger scorned!

      I used to blog a bit as well and would comment flippantly or wittily when it suited me, ultra-seriously when the occasion called for it, offensively if I felt like it. But I guess for a blog as big/ popular as OTR that’s a frustrating style for a few readers, who have experienced (in their opinion) a lack of courtesy, or openness, or protocol, or whatever they expect from an Irish Times blog (and that association also makes a difference, I think, as it is not seen as the domain of one private individual).

      As the sheriff of OTR, like any other blogger, JC gets to dictate the supposedly “open” debate, and that’s an unfair advantage, says you, and others, so perhaps, the Irish Times should like The Guardian pay for moderators — not expect the journalist to post, monitor and police. A few house rules can be put in place — no insults, no racism, no this, that, the other. And then the blogger can still continue the dialogue with the readers who can’t accuse him or her of conniving tactics or inviting them to a debate where the House wins everytime.

      @29 Paul M — that’s a pretty good defence of the accused. DId you read that thrice before posting?

    • Aidan says:

      I agree largely with Mr. Linehan’s initial assessment, but I have one single point.

      It was a mistake to not apologise for Mr. Carroll’s mentioning of his knowledge of the location of ‘Ralph P’. It was very obviously inappropriate. It’s one thing to have a debate about the value of anonymity in online debate (where I think we would broadly agree), it’s quite another to provide the option of anonymity and then publish the whereabouts of a commenter who has chosen to make use of that anonymity without his prior agreement.

    • Pedro says:

      This can’t be serious?
      It’s a blog!
      The idea of someone accusing Jim Carroll of being “intimidating” because he knew their location based on their ip address is hilarious.
      Jim telling you he is going to break your legs at the next gig he sees you at is genuine intimidation.

      I seriously can’t believe how sensitive a lot of these commenters are.
      You know that there is a whole world outside, one where you’ll encounter real issues and serious problems.
      Making a fuss out of a journalists riposte on his own blog is the most ludicrous complaint I have heard yet.

      Stop being so sensitive people.
      If you don’t like the blog then you don’t have to comment on it.
      If you take offence to Jim’s tone then deal with it, it’s his blog and he is entitled to behave and respond however he wishes.
      In fact, some people like how he interacts.

    • Ralph P says:

      Thanks for posting this Hugh. I appreciate the response. Your clarification of the practice/ practise distinction was helpful for an alien like me.

      However, I don’t think that the reply is remotely adequate.

      At NO point has anyone explained:

      a) why Jim Carroll edited his initial response;
      b) why he didn’t admit to the readers that he had done so (common courtesy on many discussion boards is to have ‘edited by AuthorName TIME’);
      c) why he didn’t publish my follow up comment.

      To address particular aspects of your response:

      “Which is all fine. But it’s a little rich to complain then about Jim’s “condescending” reply. ”
      I only complained about his condescending reply after he had edited his initial response without making any reference to the fact that he had on the blog. This seemed duplicitous to me – and still does.

      “What did you expect? Is there a rule that states bloggers should accept and publish whatever’s flung at them, whatever the tone, and only respond with amiable politeness?”

      If you decide to remove the cloak of anonymity it should be done for all, including the posts which I suspect Jim Carroll puts up to support his position. Maybe you should employ a linguistics expert to check it out. Or maybe you know…

      Whether you like it or not, all of this reflects extremely badly on the Irish Times as it is not balanced and fair, values which I would have thought are key to the ethos that the Irish Times seeks to uphold.

      This is where your job as Online Editor is relevant: he is, I believe, abusing his position on your watch. So answer me, if you will: if one of your bloggers responds to a comment, does he or she not have an obligation to publish a follow-up from the person who commented, as long as it addresses either the original post/comment or the subsequent reply and is neither offensive or libelous? (Do you want one ‘l’ or two in that?)

      If it is “simply up to them” as you seem to suggest, I think you should say that very clearly, so that everyone knows that the game is rigged. As far as I am concerned, the catch-all “The Irish Times reserves the absolute right not to publish comments” is only relevant if the post is libellous (there, two this time), malicious or offensive….

      Thanks for your time.

    • Hugh Linehan says:

      If someone complains to me about anything on the site, that complaint will be taken seriously. Teddy@27 suggests Ralph’s case wasn’t the best example to use for this discussion. But Ralph’s complaint was the first one of its sort I have received since taking on this job more than two years ago. So it wasn’t chosen as an ‘example’. It was posted, with my response, on this blog because that seemed to me to be the most appropriate place and the most appropriate form to deal with it. What has ensued is a discussion about the rules and responsibilities which arise as a result of using interactive media on irishtimes.com. That discussion is based on a real complaint. That complaint revolves around a real issue which arose. The issue is a bit messy. So is the discussion. But it seems to me that some of that messiness is intrinsic to the form in which it’s taking place (hope I’m not losing you here).

      I was just about to post a response to a number of comments on what I’d said about the IP address issue, but I’ll try to cover that in my reply to Ralph’s comment.

    • Teddy says:

      “This discussison is a bit messy” — but that’s why you should be in here a la Jim Carroll commenting and responding much more!!

      I take your point on the inspiration for this particualr post. I only said The Curious Case of Ralph P missing comment wasn’t a great example as his initial comment to JC was vituperative and a bit snide, making it easy for people to dismiss his complaints as being over sensitive or whingey — as many of the above comments have done.

    • Hugh Linehan says:

      Hi Ralph,
      To answer your questions in order:

      a) As I said earlier, bloggers can edit their posts and comments at their own discretion. I don’t accept that there is anything duplicitous about this.

      b) It’s a reasonable point on making it visible to the user that text has been amended. Not all blogs and discussion sites do this, but some do. I’ll have a look at our policy on this.

      c) irishtimes.com bloggers, along with the journalists who moderate Have Your Say pieces and poll comments on the site, are given discretion to make their own judgment on what or what not to publish. It is not “up to them”, as you suggest later in your response: they must abide by the standards of The Irish Times and are accountable on that. However, nobody has a “right” to have his comment published, nor do the moderators have to publish a reason for a particular decision. Let me be absolutely clear: as online editor, I have no problem with Jim choosing not to publish your second comment, and I see no reason to ask him to account publicly for that decision.

      In relation to your next paragraph, I infer that you are setting aside the point about condescension and focusing on the issue of the IP address. A number of other commenters on this thread have suggested that I should have taken this more seriously. I honestly have to say again that I do not agree that this constitutes “bullying”. Of all the comments here on it, I think Dave D @8 is closest to the mark.

      Also isn’t it a little dramatic to suggest that locating you as being somewhere on the campus of the country’s largest university will “remove the cloak of anonymity”?

      Your unproven, unsupported “suspicions” about Jim’s conduct are, frankly, neither here nor there and I won’t dignify them with a response.

      As for the question:

      ‘If one of your bloggers responds to a comment, does he or she not have an obligation to publish a follow-up from the person who commented, as long as it addresses either the original post/comment or the subsequent reply and is neither offensive or libelous? (Do you want one ‘l’ or two in that?)’

      The answer is simple. No. And two please.

      You go on to say:

      ‘As far as I am concerned, the catch-all “The Irish Times reserves the absolute right not to publish comments” is only relevant if the post is libellous (there, two this time), malicious or offensive….’

      Which seems to me to display an insecure grasp of the meaning of the phrase ‘absolute right’.

      I feel that there’s a potentially interesting discussion to be found in here somewhere, but fear we’re never going to get to it. You use the words ‘balanced and fair’, which are words that crop up in the strangest places sometimes these days. These are very important principles, but it can be a challenge to apply them to, for example, a snarky online conversation on a not particularly invigorating subject where an anonymous protagonist kicks things off by attacking someone for not being able to do their job properly. I don’t deny that we sometimes struggle with these challenges, but we do honestly attempt to face them and be open about them.

    • Finn says:

      Love OTR, it’s one of the most vibrant, informative and relevant music blogs in Ireland at the moment. I also enjoy the banter flowing back and forth on a daily basis. I agree fully with Jim and Hugh’s various explanations and defences of their actions/comments/follow up to Raplh’s posts.

      However, I do think it was wrong (morally, proessionally and otherwise) for Jim to state Ralph P’s location without his permission. I also think Hugh, as Jim’s editor should acknowledge that this was wrong.


Search Mechanical Turk