By Scott Tibbs, December 7, 2015
The Herald-Times is obviously free to set whatever rules they want for their story comments. If they want to implement a new rule, that is their prerogative - but they should be honest about new rules, instead of lying about them. All I am asking for is a little honesty and integrity, but these qualities are severely lacking at 1900 South Walnut.
Last week, I posted a link to the Center for BioEthical Reform's website in the comments for a letter that supported abortion rights. My comment was deleted, so I asked why it was deleted and if there was a new rule against posting a link to CBR. A Herald-Times employee, instead of being honest and saying that the H-T has decided to disallow these links from this point forward, flagrantly lied and said links to CBR have always been against HTO comments policy.
This is simply laughable. I pointed out that I have posted a link to CBR in nine different comment threads, with hyperlinks to the threads and screenshots of my posts. Up until last Friday, this has never been a problem. But here is the kicker - I have included links to CBR's website in a letter to the editor and in a guest editorial. Are the "standards" for HTO comments different from the standards for the print edition? If so, that is more than a little silly.
The pictures of the results of abortion are relevant factual information for the discussion about the morality of the procedure and debates over whether abortion should be legal. The pictures are shocking and offensive (as they should be) but they are also informative in understanding exactly what the abortion procedure does.
The Herald-Times sent me an incredibly dishonest response, petulantly claiming that HTO "rules have not changed," because the Herald-Times has always prohibited "offensive" content. But as I pointed out above, this is simply not true, at least as it concerns links to the abortion photographs Center for BioEthical Reform's website. Remember, that URL has been published in the print edition of the newspaper.
But the prohibition on "offensive" content basically means that the Herald-Times will make up rules on a whim. By prohibiting "offensive" content, the Herald-Times can decide that literally anything can be against the comment guidelines, and the exact same comment can be against the rules or within the rules on a day-to-day basis, depending on the whims of the moderators. This is because "offensive" is an extremely subjective standard, and the Herald-Times cannot expect its users to know what is or is not "offensive" to the moderators on any given day. If we cannot know the rules we cannot know what we may or may not post.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of content in mainstream news coverage that can be deemed legitimately offensive. The famous Newsweek cover of the firefighter holding the dead baby after the Oklahoma City bombing is one example, and the Herald-Times own coverage of the Michael Plumadore trial is another one. (The article describes how Plumadore beat a little girl to death and hacked up her corpse.) But those things should be offensive, because they are accurate reporting on horrific crimes. If the "standard" is that "offensive" content is prohibited, the Herald-Times own news coverage was a violation of HTO comment policy.
This is the new rule. I will not post the link again. While I disagree with the rule, it is the Herald-Times' forum and the Herald-Times decides what is and is not allowed. But let's make no mistake about it: This absolutely is a new rule, and we all know it. This rule was never in place before December 4.
I find it extremely disappointing that the Herald-Times answered my questions in such a dishonest manner. The link has clearly not been against the rules in the past, as I have demonstrated by pointing out the comments that were never a problem in the past plus content (including my guest column) that has been published in the print edition. I wish the Herald-Times would just be honest and say they have decided that the link to AbortionNo.org is no longer allowed as of December 4. All I am asking for is a little show of integrity.