The CrackBerry Chronicles
With Elaine Santore
December 7, 2007
Now you see it, now you don't - Update
Occasionally, Fog City Journal's editorial staff of two leaves
the confines of our headquarters to hang out with our colleagues
in the mainstream media.
After reading the November 28 CrackBerry Chronicles column
the Media's allegations of censorship and deception by SFGate
and the Chronicle, Eve Batey, San Francisco Chronicle Deputing
Managing Editor for Online, emailed FCJ offering to "bring
your jury back in for a decision."
Eve Batey, San Francisco Chronicle Deputing Managing Editor for
photographed outside the San Francisco Chronicle offices.
Fog City Journal decided it would be best to meet Batey at Tempest,
the Chronicle's dive bar of choice. We wanted Eve to be as comfortable
as possible while she pleaded her case. She began by explaining
the separate structures of the Chronicle newspaper and SFGate.com,
which each have their own set of management, editors, photo editors,
etc. According to Batey, "I was brought in to bring the two
closer together, but it's been a slow process."
SFGate and the San Francisco Chronicle contracted with the comment
software company Pluck. During the implementation of the software,
SFGate requested deleted comments be replaced by the phrase "This
comment has been deleted due to violations of SFGate's Terms
However, Pluck didn't have a tool to replace deleted comments,
and suggested SFGate utilize a "blocked user" function
add-on instead. The function deletes comments for all users except
for the original author of the comment. Blog templates like WordPress
and Moveable Type also have a similar feature.
SFGate comments can be reported by other users for profanity,
hate speech, and personal attacks. According to Batey, "We
rarely delete comments based on 'personal attacks.'" If a
user gets reported enough, the user is blocked.
Batey told FCJ she didn't want deleted comments to disappear.
But because the tool wouldn't be available in time, she and her
colleagues agreed to use the blocked user function, fully aware
a number of users would be affected and deceived by the blocking
policy. Looking back, Batey regrets making the decision.
JimJams wrote Investigate the Media because he/she got blocked
for violating the SFGate Terms of Service policy. However, JimJams
did not know he/she was blocked until it became apparent his/her
comments were invisible to everyone else. JimJams claimed SFGate
and the Chronicle were purposely censoring comments they deemed
as not sufficiently "progressive".
When Batey became aware of the blog post, she sent emails explaining
the comment policy to SFist
and other media outlets. SFGate discontinued using the block user
function on November 26.
After the reading Batey's explanation on SFist, JimJam's wrote
post with an update on the controversy:
"Though this may at first appear to be a double victory
-- getting the Chronicle to admit to its deception, and then getting
them to change the policy -- the celebrations may be premature.
Because even two days after Batey announced that they were no
longer graylisting anyone, notes that say 'This comment has been
removed by SFGate' are still cropping up in Chronicle threads."
After the update, Batey wrote to JimJams directly via Investigate
the Media's comment section. She agreed to un-block JimJams from
SFGate, and asked other blocked users to email her with their
user IDs/emails so she could un-block each of them manually.
On December 4, the day after our interview with Batey, the SFGate
Team sent out an email to all registered users with a link to
SFGate's revised Commenting Policy:
To provide the optimal experience for all members of our commenter
community, we have recently posted a revised Comment
Policy. In addition, you'll note that the following verbiage
appears above every comment entry box on SFGate:
"In accordance with our Comment
Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant
and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity,
personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other
inappropriate material that violates our Terms
and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations.
We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat
one another with dignity and respect."
Big thanks to Eve Batey for taking the time to chat with FCJ
and explain her side of the story for the record. Down with the
CrackBerry Blind Item
Which hard-pAArtying blogger and perennial candidate has been
MIA from the scene for the past few weeks, drunk on power and
planning a campaign for District 3 Supervisor? Word has it the
candidate's actually running to win this time.
$500 entrance fee = time for us to hop aboard the crazy train
If you don't like the circus, don't buy the tickets.