Jan 1 2013
06:05 pm

In the years since the death of young Henry Granju, the Knoxville News-Sentinel has learned the value of protecting families from the vultures that roost in the crags of their comment section eager to strip the bones of the subjects mentioned in news articles. As a result more care is taken with the decision to disable comments when there is a reasonable assumption that they will get out of hand.

This is an all together laudable act. It is, however, regrettable that the decision made in Henry's case cannot be undone, we cannot un-ring a bell.

But today the KNS did protect a family's sensitivities in reporting an unfortunate incident involving another young person. The family of Isaak Christopher McElroy will not and should not have to deal with the blight that is KNS commenters.

Rachel's picture

I don't think comments were

I don't think comments were disabled on that so much to protect the McElroys. I suspect it was more to keep the administrators from having to spend their day deleting hateful comments.

The KNS needs to fix its comments section. Getting rid of anonymity would be a good start.

Bbeanster's picture

The Tennessean links its

The Tennessean links its comments to Facebook, which pretty much takes care of the anonymity problem (unless somebody's hardcore enough to set up a fake FB page). I think it works pretty well there.

bizgrrl's picture

I hope that's not a trend.

I hope that's not a trend. The NYT doesn't use Facebook, do they?

barkers's picture

NY Times comments

The Times has a staff that does nothing but vet comments for the website. They look at comments much the same way they look at letters to the editor. Most newspapers do not have the staffing to do that. At KNS, we have a few people designated to monitor comments already posted, but we do not filter them beforehand. We don't have the staffing to do it.

There is a legal reason to allow comments as well. As it stands, case law has determined that if a site does not filter comments beforehand, it is shielded from lawsuits. For example, the commenter, not the host site, is at risk for libel. That's what enables Randy to host Knoxviews without a concern about what metulj or tamara or anybody else posts. If case law moves in the other direction (i.e., that the host is responsible for all content), then message boards will have to change.

barkers's picture

No, but if you want to frame

No, but if you want to frame it that way so does knxivews.

barkers's picture

No, Knoxviews is a forum for

No, Knoxviews is a forum for discussion. Those who post here are responsible for their posts. If you libel someone, you, not Randy, are legally responsible.

barkers's picture


Who is innocent?

Hildegard's picture

A better moral argument is

A better moral argument is that the justification offered by online news sources for publishing them is dishonest. They say they want to promote public discourse, but the truth is they depend on them for revenue. So saying it's about giving the humble masses a forum for expression is dishonest and thus immoral.

A review of any comment section, even when everybody's being nice and praying about something, is a tedious and depressing affirmation that most people are just dumb and don't have much to add. But when they turn mean, well, they turn public discourse into a feeding frenzy of fear and ignorance of the most primitive and unenlightening rank.

Publishing a story about a murder will have direct consequences in the lives of innocent family members (innocent here meaning family members not involved in the murder, or victims' family members who learn lurid details of their loved ones' lives they hadn't realized before they were made public). There is nothing immoral about publishing that story, though. There may be ethical calculations to consider, but that's different.

But what is immoral is publishing a story about a murder and then providing a forum for the vigilante mob and passing out torches to light their path to the jailhouse. That's the comments section, and that's immoral.

barkers's picture

Sorry, Hilde, but the

Sorry, Hilde, but the pittance we get in revenue from comments is almost irrelevant to our bottom line. It is about giving people -- the humble masses, as you call them -- a place where they can express themselves. It's not my fault nor yours that they express themselves in a way that you do not approve of. Sometimes they are just stupid. But even stupid people have a right to weigh in on the issues of the day. They are citizens, stupid or not.

Hildegard's picture

Whew. That's a relief.

Whew. That's a relief. And it explains Greg Johnson.

barkers's picture


We've published scores, if not hundreds, of stories on the Christian/Newsom killings. We've left comments open on most of them. Despite the fact we've left comments open and despite the calls from some quarters for vigilante justice, the trials have moved forward. I don't see this as a problem in the grand scheme of things.

Rachel's picture

Ok, Scott, I see your point.

Ok, Scott, I see your point. But your real problem is anonymity, not screening comments. It allows people to post stuff they'd never, ever say if they had to attach their names to it.

If the comments on KV were as numerously nasty and downright inhuman as the ones on the KNS, I'd be calling for Randy to get rid of anonymity as well.

barkers's picture

Point taken. Although I will

Point taken. Although I will say that the comments on KV can be as nasty as the ones on Knoxnews.

Rachel's picture

Although I will say that the

Although I will say that the comments on KV can be as nasty as the ones on Knoxnews.

Occasionally. But there are tens of nasty comments on the KNS site every freakin' day.

Look, I believe in public discourse and I think providing a place for folks to comment - even if (and maybe especially if) the comments are stupid - is a good thing.

But the KNS comment section is just a sewer. It doesn't serve the public discourse. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't. Y'all kind of recognize that yourself when you turn off comments on the stories where you know it will get particularly ugly.

You need to do something about it. You can't just say that you're not responsible for what folks say. You're providing the forum for them to say it. Figure out what tools to use to force them to be at least a bit responsible for what they say.

barkers's picture


The thread under that story also contained rebukes of the racist comments as well as numerous condolences for the family of the victim. Hardly an indictment of the comments section.

barkers's picture

There is no "need" to comment

There is no "need" to comment on anything. But some want to. You obviously want to comment about KNS's comment sections. There is no "need" for you to do so, but you clearly want your opinion to be known.

barkers's picture

No. Toby, it is a fact. You

No. Toby, it is a fact. You don't have to opine on anything.

barkers's picture

Comments on the story

Comments on the story revealed the man crossed the highway several times a day. It could indicate a need to establish better ways for people to cross Rutledge Pike or to make motorists aware that people could be crossing Rutledge Pike at that location. So there is a public service for having these comments go forward. A story doesn't have to be about politics to be important. I would think an intelligent guy such as you would understand that.

Pam Strickland's picture

I agree that politics isn't

I agree that politics isn't the only thing that people need to comment on. Traffic is a huge area of discussion. And there are other areas of life and social issues when the community can have things that they need and want to say that go beyond racism and sexism.

Fabricant's picture

True enough. Many of comments

True enough. Many of the comments on Knoxnews express the racism and sexism in this part of the country but they are not the cause. Leave the comments page open, encourage counter reaction to the bigots and shut it down when there is not, like a bartender cutting off a belligerent drunk.

barkers's picture

That's basically what we do.

That's basically what we do.

Fabricant's picture

That's why I have no beef

That's why I have no beef with Knoxnews.

reform4's picture

By your same argument..

The McElroy article could be a forum for how we need better treatment approaches for young drug offenders, or how we need better DUI enforcement.

What am I missing about your argument?

Pam Strickland's picture

Based on my personal

Based on my personal experience, my guess would be that the decision was based on manpower. It's a holiday. When there is a high profile story that they know will cause problems they like for McElroy and Lail to personally keep an eye on it. But it's a holiday. And McElroy doesn't need to be involved in this one at all, and Lail probably wants to enjoy his day off. As does the rest of the staff. The commenters don't take a day off, So the easiest thing is to just turn off comments.

The key will be how this is handled as the story moves through the system. Depending on what happens with the younger McElroy and what stories are reported and whether comments are left open.

R. Neal's picture

That must be it. Thanks for

That must be it. Thanks for the inside perspective.

Pam Strickland's picture

Of course, I'm guessing. And

Of course, I'm guessing. And no one has ever told me that they have turned off comments because it was getting to be too much for the vwerkend crew, that's just what I've put together a couple of times.

R. Neal's picture

Thanks again for the inside

Thanks again for the inside insight.

kag's picture

First let me say as a parent

First let me say as a parent who has been thru the terror of having an underage son abusing pills that my first and foremost responses in reading the story about the McElroys' child are concern and hope. Seeing your child abuse prescription drugs or other dangerous illegal drugs is just the most terrifying, painful situation - there really aren't any words. My prayers and love go out to Isaac McElroy and his parents. I hope that local law enforcement tracks down and arrests the source(s) of the pills and alcohol provided to a 20 year old in our community. If that doesn't happen, I hope the McElroy family will raise hell.

Totally separately from that statement, I also want to say something that I've said before; the decision as to whether the subject of a particular KNS story will be subjected to the vicious mob of anonymous commenters the KNS attracts and publishes should NOT be based on an ever changing, unarticulated and entirely capricious ("not enough staff on a holiday") set of criteria. That's incredibly unfair to those of us who were unlucky enough to be the subject of KNS coverage when there were apparently enough staffers around to let the commenting mob loose on us.

Here's something I wrote on this specific topic not that long ago - on the subject of when and why the KNS decides to disable comments. I hope some of y'all might take a moment to read it.


Thank you. Happy 2013 to all.


PS: I should have made clear that I am very, VERY glad that the comments were disabled on the story about Isaac's arrest. The comments this story would have attracted would have been beyond horrible.

Pam Strickland's picture

I just want to emphasize that

I just want to emphasize that I'm only offering an educated guess.

That I agree it isn't fair.

That I too hope the young man gets help.

And that I think the facebook option is a lousy one.

Good night all.

redmondkr's picture

Probably half the articles

Probably half the articles published should have comments disabled. Tonight there is an article about the first baby born this year in town. Somebody had the good sense to disable comments and for a very good reason. In East Tennessee even an upbeat article about a brand new life in our town would be a bigot magnet.

Pam Strickland's picture

Kenny, I signed in this

Kenny, I signed in this morning to point out this article. KNS readers cannot be trusted to simply say congratulations to a happy family that isn't waspy.

Mike Cohen's picture


I am not a fan of anonymous comments. Never have been. I hope they go away from KNS and other sites as well.

That aside, I have a question that relates, at least in part, to the double standard mentioned earlier. Does anyone think that if this had not been McElroy's son this would have been reported at all? Do arrests for DUI and/or pills like this normally get reported? I don't think so, but maybe i just don't pay enough attention to them.

Hoping for the best for young McElroy and the entire family.

Pam Strickland's picture

A very good point, Mike.

A very good point, Mike. These types of arrests are seldom reported except when connected to a name or position, or occasionally when they are connected to some other news event such as a dramatic accident.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Actually, I had always understood that comments were allowed on the Granju articles primarily because Katie and family took exception to the manner in which the KCSO investigated (or didn't) their son's death?

That is, KNS intended discussion in those comments to focus on the KCSO's investigation?

In contrast, Jack does not appear to have any complaint concerning KCSO's treatment of his son, hence if comments had been allowed on this article, they likely would have been comprised of just gasps and/or guffaws at the McElroy family's unfortunate situation?

Just my read, with no disrespect intended to either family.

Pam Strickland's picture

Tamara, that's not the read

Tamara, that's not the read that I had about the Granju case at all

trobinson's picture

Isn't the KNS a kind of

Isn't the KNS a kind of public place? You wouldn't wear a mask to a public meeting to yell at your neighbors, why is it ok to do it online.

I understand that it's important that we always have means for anonymous comments/mudslinging, it's been going on since before the beginning of this country. I think there should (and will) be places for anonymous descent but I have yet--and would like--to hear a compelling argument for high visibility sites like KNS to be anonymous.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Tamara, that's not the read that I had about the Granju case at all.

Pam, I didn't mean to comment on "the Granju case" so much as I meant to comment on what discussion KNS had imagined would take place in comments to their stories about the case.

So what was your understanding as to the discussion KNS intended to take place in those comments on the Granju articles, if not discussion on the KCSO investigation/lack thereof?

What I'm trying to say is that I tend to think that, in general, it was KNS commenters who behaved so badly. It appeared to me that KNS staff tried to edit those reams of comments in a manner that kept discussion focused on the KCSO investigation/lack thereof?

I'm also suggesting that if a public interest had NOT existed in scrutinizing that investigation/lack thereof (as does NOT exist in the McElroy situation), KNS might have disabled comments on any Granju story(-ies), as well, out of respect for the family?

I really think KNS's different treatment of the Granju articles in allowing comments on them was due to their (KNS) perceiving a public interest in whether the KCSO investigation was handled properly.

And I tend to hold those commenters more culpable than KNS in missing the focus of the articles and causing such hurt to the Granju family.

Hope that's what I conveyed earlier...

Andy Axel's picture

Be fair. There's probably

Be fair. There's probably still an investigative team on Lane Kiffin...

Pam Strickland's picture

I'm not going to refight that

I'm not going to refight that fight. Let's just say, I think you are painting a mighy rosy tint to that picture.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I'm not going to refight that fight. Let's just say, I think you are painting a mighy rosy tint to that picture.

Not "painting" or "tinting" anything...

KNS allowed reader comments on the Granju articles because those articles also advanced a compelling public concern, namely whether a KCSO investigation of the young man's death was handled properly.

In contrast, KNS disallowed reader comments on the McElroy article because that article did not advance any similar compelling public concern that might warrant public discussion.

The distinction is an important one and I think we'd be remiss to ignore it in favor of any conspiracy theory to the contrary.

But I've made this one last post only to try to clarify this point, not to argue it to death. That's all from me, too.

Average Guy's picture

Parental concern should be micro,

public concern should be macro; (link...)

I'd love to see the KNS use available data and write an investigative story that refutes the work of Granju and Hailey. But, I don't think that's possible.

In this day, a story on any one individuals drug abuse shouldn't shock anyone.

But how drugs enter the community, how certain dealers operate and are known for years along with numbers of arrest and prosecutions may shock some folks.

jackdlail's picture

Interesting discussion

I find it interesting that it's not been mentioned that another article on Tuesday had comments disabled.

That article was at the top of the home page of knoxnews for most of the day.

Either few noticed or they don't think it's part of this particular comment conspiracy theory debate?


-- jack lail

R. Neal's picture

It was mentioned and

It was mentioned and discussed above:


It's pretty sad you had to turn off comments on that story. (Because of the race/nationality of the parents, I presume?)

Rachel's picture

I noticed. And thought it

I noticed. And thought it was terribly sad that the KNS felt the need to disable comments.

Consider what that says about your commenters, and if you really want to give them the cloak of anonymity.

redmondkr's picture

KNS Commenters Question Decision

Today's KNS has another article about an accused DUI driver, this time with comments enabled.

Comments are predictably trending more toward a perceived double standard in comments policy than to the article du jour.

R. Neal's picture

And it happened in Kingsport?

And it happened in Kingsport? Written by a reporter up there? I guess that's important local news now, because they don't have enough reporters to cover Knoxville?

Pam Strickland's picture

I would note that the

I would note that the Kingsport DUI story was news because the driver ran into the building when he was trying to get some food at the drive thru. That's the news peg.

R. Neal's picture

Thanks again for the inside

Thanks again for the inside info and insight.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


...the Kingsport DUI story was news because the driver ran into the building...

Agreed, and the "compelling public interest" is that there were two young children, ages 2 and 7, in the driver's vehicle.

Meanwhile, the Knox County Sheriff Office site details several other DUI arrests over the last 24 hours that did not necessarily warrant mention in the KNS, with or without comments enabled.

As Mike Cohen suggested earlier, most DUIs are not reported at all and the McElroy DUI arrest was likely mentioned in the KNS only due to the driver's relationship to the editor. Other media outlets did not report on the arrest, I don't believe?

Concern for the vitriolic personalities of some KNS posters aside, I personally don't find that the newspaper's "rules" for publishing or not publishing stories or for enabling or disabling comments to be particularly esoteric.

Bbeanster's picture

The news value to this story

The news value to this story is severely diminished by the fact that it happened 100 miles away.

Pam Strickland's picture

yes, but, KNS has that

yes, but, KNS has that content sharing with other papers across the state, so I'm sure that's where this came from. And even if it was 100 miles away it wasn't your routine DUI accident. The other aspect, and I don't have the foggiest on this, would be is KNS has any sales coverage up there. Probably not, But they do sell on up to the KY line so into the region and folks would be interested.

fischbobber's picture

What I want to know.......

Case # Document Type Booked/Served Charge
@1027911 WARRANT 03-JAN-13 ARSON
Bond Type: APPEARANCE Bond Amount: $7500 SET

Bond Type: APPEARANCE Bond Amount: $25000 SET

How come we're not reading about this? Seems like someone could turn this into an interesting story.

Hildegard's picture

I read the warrants. Why is

I read the warrants. Why is it an interesting story?

fischbobber's picture


I thought it was a somewhat bizarre combination of charges and the thought of explosive devices and brass knuckles involved in a charge that did not include felony assault or murder struck me as compelling. Sort of like monkeys riding goat herding dogs. I've been told I have a warped sense of humor.

R. Neal's picture

Oh. I thought that was just

Oh. I thought that was just some generic cop speak regarding the statute under which she was charged, not that she was arrested with explosive devices, brass knuckles, a switchblade, and all that other stuff. But maybe I'm mistaken.

fischbobber's picture

Could Be.

Not sure about the charges.

I'm impressed with the size of the explosion and the fact that there were no injuries. This definitely falls under the, "Hey Y'all! Watch this!" category. I was disappointed about the lack of brass knuckles, but encouraged by the size and scope of the explosion. No one injured is the difference between a tragedy and a comedy.

I read the whole page of warrants. This one stood out.

I had an old friend named Steve Ray that used to work for the Knoxville Journal. He used to tell me, "Bob, if you want your story on the front page, use the word bludgeon in the first sentence." I think he would have loved this story. I personally would have fleshed it out some. I find it infinitely more interesting than a drunk driving story. Plus it's got a happy ending. Just Sayin.

Buy the way, kudos to this forum for whatever influence you wield that causes the great journalism gods to report the every whim of your readers.

R. Neal's picture

Ask and ye shall

Ask (here, evidently) and ye shall receive:


More stupid than interesting, but there you go.

fischbobber's picture


I think most newspapers could use more stupid stories. It makes the rest of us feel better about ourselves.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


True enough, but I'm seeing ho-hum stories from Topeka, Kansas and Jasper, Alabama on the KNS home page right now, too.

And they've been linking more and more area newspapers, I guess you've noticed.

Back on point, I've run searches at the sites of all other local media outlets and it doesn't appear that any of them except KNS chose to report the McElroy story.

I do think we should accept and appreciate the story as a gesture of transparency on their part.

And I can't see that comments on the story would have served any purpose.

Factchecker's picture


Although I will say that the comments on KV can be as nasty as the ones on Knoxnews.

Mr. Barker, you've offered some excellent comments here before, but this ain't one of them. It's downright bullshit. Hoping that was just a lazy lapse posted in a weak moment of trying to circle the Scripps wagons.

barkers's picture

Your use of the word

Your use of the word "bullshit" makes my case.

Fabricant's picture

Yeah, that was real nasty.

Yeah, that was real nasty. Lots of hate lying behind that usage of BS.?.?.?

reform4's picture

Oh cam we have a contest to compare????

Scott, do you REALLY want to go there? We can open a new thread, and everyone can post arguments on both sides. I can pretty much assure you you'd lose bad, and that's AFTER the comments KNS has to remove/censor.

Seriously, I'd recommend walking back the idea that Koxviews bears any resemblance to the KNS comments sewer. That's an insanely stupid comment.

Pam Strickland's picture

While the comments here have

While the comments here have seldom been as low as those on knoxnews.com, I can personally attest that they have occasionally gotten just plain mean. So I wouldn't advise anyone here getting too high and mighty.

Fabricant's picture

There is a difference between

There is a difference between being mean and dishing out racist and sexist comments. Are you accusing Knoxviews of facilitating these type of derogatory speech acts?

That said, I don't have any problem with the KNS comments section as long as the hate-speech is met with counter-speech, which I find it usually is.

barkers's picture

Then what's your beef?

Then what's your beef?

Fabricant's picture

There are two issues here: 1)

There are two issues here:
1) What should KNS do about hate-speech in its forums?
2) Is Knoxviews as nasty as KNS comments section?

To 1, I have no beef as long as counter-speech is facilitated, which I find it is.

To 2, I disagree. There is far more racism and sexism in KNS comments section.

barkers's picture

So, basically you have no

So, basically you have no beef with KNS's comments sections.

Yes, at times the vitriol at Knoxviews rivals that on knoxnews.com. It does tend to be more of a personal edge rather than a blanket hatred, but it happens. That's no slam on Randy. It happens.

There is more of it on knoxnews.com because there is more traffic. And we get a broader range of reader -- liberal and conservative, religious and atheist, etc. -- than other local websites. Ideally, that makes for a more robust debate, though as we all know those debates get hijacked at times.

Fabricant's picture

I have no beef with KNS's

I have no beef with KNS's comment section but there is no comparison between Knoxviews to Knoxnews in the hate-speech department. Racism and sexism are spit all over Knoxnews everyday and that simply doesn't happen here. IMO, these are just different types of forums for different types of people looking for different types of conversations. Personally, I don't find debating racists and sexists to be that robust.

barkers's picture

Racism and sexism should be

Racism and sexism should be attacked wherever they arise. If they arise on knoxnews, fight them there. If they arise on knoxviews, fight them there. Don't blame the forum, though.

barkers's picture

Talk about obtuse! Toby, I

Talk about obtuse! Toby, I admit nothing of the sort. We publish stories and allow people to comment on them. You don't like the comments? Then go on the site and challenge them. If you don't do that, then you have no grounds to complain.

jmcnair's picture

Been there. Got banned.

I tried that for a while, but got banned for what you told me seemed to be a misinterpretation of one of my comments. _I_ never saw what my ostensible transgression was and all the comments I had made just disappeared into the ether.

I've washed my hands of that cesspool.

Fabricant's picture

I don't blame the forum and

I don't blame the forum and have no beef with it. What I take issue with is equating Knoxviews comments to those of Knoxnews. I really don't think the comparison helps your argument.

Michael's picture

Racism and sexism are spit

Racism and sexism are spit all over Knoxnews everyday and that simply doesn't happen here.

I take it you missed out on the piece regarding the Romney banner at a UT frat house. There was plenty of misogyny in that one.

Fabricant's picture

I had plenty of comments for

I had plenty of comments for the UT frat boys and that post demonstrates the difference between Knoxviews and Knoxnews. The Frat boys were beat into submission because this forum doesn't take too kindly to bigots. Thanks for furthering the cause.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Your use of the word "bullshit" makes my case.

I gotta say I caught that, too, Scott.

Neither was I exactly clear as to why this suggestion that you might want to "circle the Scripps wagons" because KNS had voluntarily run a news story (or "non-news story," depending on one's perspective) disparaging of its editor's son, when no other local media outlet had chosen to do the same?

Was the suggestion that KNS should fear the resulting thanks for their transparency that reasonable people would extend to them???

Oh, well. Busy day. Over and out.

barkers's picture

We treat reporters and others

We treat reporters and others at KNS the same way we treat public officials. In recent years we have reported DUI arrests of reporters, though we almost never report DUI arrests of regular joes. Don't think we should be praised for it, but it is what it is.

Pam Strickland's picture

I think some of y'all are

I think some of y'all are hating on knoxnews commenters so much that you aren't willing to see the speck in your own eyes. Yes, those folks over at knoxnews can be plum evil. Respond to them, flag the comments for removal. And then take an honest look at yourself. Some folks on this forum have been downright mean to me, acting like a bunch of mad feral cats because I took an unpopular stand. And in this thread alone you've treated Scott as if he were Obama bringing a tax cut proposal to Congress. There was no need to imitate Boehner, yet you did.

I believe that there should be changes in the way that comments are handled at knoxnews. And I regularly and forcefully take those believes to McElroy and Lail. But I also have to work within the current system. And unlike many KNS writers I'm aggressive about it. I flag comments that violate the user agreement. They are removed. It takes some time, but at least I know that those some small modicum of response to civility there.

Last week when I wrote about a highly personal matter that I knew and the editors knew would draw out the venom of some, I stayed away for about 36 hours but only with the understanding that McElroy would personally monitor the comments early on. He did and the situation actually ended up being very positive.

So, y'all get over yourselves. Stop yammering and do something about the situation.

Fabricant's picture

Again, being mean and being a

Again, being mean and being a racist/sexist bigot are two different things. And if Scott and you want to come on here and compare Knoxviews comments to Knoxnews then you open yourself up to criticism. Sorry for not being nice about it but taking your advice and having an honest look at Knoxviews, I haven't seen many racist and sexist comments. Hence, I consider your and Scott's comments to be more disdainful of the two sides in this case.

cafkia's picture

I disagree

I disagree with Barker, Pam and Tamera. "Bullshit" is simply colloquial speak for "I disagree". Unless you feel that the title of this comment is hugely mean and disrespectful, I gotta call bullshit. Yes, there are nicer ways to indicate your divergence from the opinion of the original statement. However, those are not always received with an appropriate understanding of the vehemence of the disagreement.

I would also point out that I have been disagreed with a number of times and a number of ways including having heard my words described as "bullshit". I have also been subjected to descriptions of my ancestry and personal capabilities that were significantly other than complimentary. "Bullshit" was by far the less hurtful statement. I have observed others in similar situations and in my judgement, they also deemed "bullshit" to be the lesser of the evils.

In my political commentary, I have no problem with people disagreeing with me/my conclusions. I hone my arguments (and sometimes change them dammit) through the use of argument and disagreement. It is the intentional insult, the stereotyping insult, the casual and ignorant insult, and the inability-to-read-what-I-actually-wrote insult that I find unacceptable.

I agree with Katie in that the policy needs to be consistent and clearly stated. I agree with several that the annonymity needs to go away (for the newbies here, many on this forum are friends and acquaintances of mine IRL and my real name is easily discovered with a minor bit of Google work). I suggest that the KNS is purposefully avoiding taking a stand either way for reasons I do not understand.

bizgrrl's picture

"Bullshit" is simply

"Bullshit" is simply colloquial speak for "I disagree". Unless you feel that the title of this comment is hugely mean and disrespectful, I gotta call bullshit.


cwg's picture


the KNS paywall goes up, the ugly comments are going to drop quickly. So you've only got a few more months to suffer through, y'all.

Rachel's picture

Good pt. And one I forgot.

Good pt. And one I forgot.

Fabricant's picture

Generally speaking, the

Generally speaking, the comments are going to drop quickly.

Rachel's picture

Just MO, but I'd a lot rather

Just MO, but I'd a lot rather hear an occasional "bullshit" than the kind of blanket hatred toward the "other" that permeates the KNS comments. (And I frankly find it funny that the KSN protects me from that and other "curse" words while leaving vile personal attacks onf people alone.)

For example, somebody called Mayor Rogero "bell cow Maddy" last week. I have no idea what purpose that serves.

And that kind of stuff is common.

Scott, you can't compare KV and the KNS comments. That's a losing argument. Anybody could do a context analysis and show that the KNS comments are far nastier, more racist, more sexist, etc.

I'm back to anonymity. Get rid of that and I suspect most of your problem goes away. Why are y'all so resistant to that?

Bbeanster's picture

Agree with Fabricant – being

Agree with Fabricant – being "mean" is open to interpretation, depending on whose ox is being gored, and is way different from the predictable bigotry demonstrated toward ethnic minorities, gays, atheists and Democrats and other assorted offenders of the status quo on the KNS web site.

Factchecker's picture

Your use of the word

Your use of the word "bullshit" makes my case.

I gotta say I caught that, too, Scott.

Neither was I exactly clear as to why this suggestion that you might want to "circle the Scripps wagons" because KNS had voluntarily run a news story (or "non-news story," depending on one's perspective) disparaging of its editor's son, when no other local media outlet had chosen to do the same?

You gotta be kidding. Someone's bar of nastiness is set where primetime network language standards were many, many years ago?! Sorry to bruise the tender ears.

Here's the difference. KNS online comments clearly are mostly a sewer, except worse because there's no socially redeeming value there. Just anonymous hate venting by bigots, racists, etc. KV is a more like a living room discussion that occasionally gets soiled by an un-housebroken puppy or two. And as unpleasant as it must be, Randy invests the effort to tidy things back up, as he did after the young College Republicans came to "visit." There may not be liability with him, but Randy has a sense of propriety that KNS wouldn't know if it came and bit it in the "you-know-where" (is that better? wink-smiley, etc.).

I could get into the anonymity thing, but that would diverge a bit. Basically if you don't log in or have a consistent pseudonym (or whatever), things can certainly boil out badly. A standard I try to adhere to is not to write anything I wouldn't say to one's face. If I met you, or anyone else, I'd be more smiles and cordial, sure, but if we got into a discussion, I guaran-damn-tee you that I wouldn't be afraid to call bullshit as "bullshit." All cordially, of course. Do you really prefer to limit face-to-face discussions to polite pitter patter?

It's of course easy to point to something easy and use it as an excuse not to defend a weak argument.

As for "circle the wagons," I was only referring to the obvious motive for KNS employees to defend company policies they don't want to challenge or work to change, or to be seen as not toeing the line (and I hope that phrase is not as easily misunderstood as "circling the wagons"). I'm giving you the benefit of doubt that you really can see a difference in the dialog on both sites. (Of course I use the term "dialog" lightly w/r/t KNS online comments.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I disagree with Barker, Pam and Tamera. "Bullshit" is simply colloquial speak for "I disagree".

Steve, buddy, your Merriam-Webster will distinguish between "colloquialisms," "vulgarisms," and "profanity,"

"Bullshit" is an expletive, which terms are further categorized as "vulgarisms" or "profanity," most often the latter.

KV's site rules allow limited "profanity" in comments (but not on its home page), while KnoxNews doesn't allow "profanity" at all.

Debate clubs in Knox County high schools don't allow "vulgarisms" or "profanity," either one.

I'm citing these rules, you understand, not writing them.

cafkia's picture

So it is your understanding

So it is your understanding if I say, "I call bullshit" that I am speaking to a pile of bovine fecal matter and expecting a response of some sort? I rather doubt it. As a matter of fact, I rather suspect you would take it as a vulgar colloquialism, a profane expression of disagreement.

In my opinion, it would be awkward and artificial for individuals who have interacted for years, even if it is exclusively online, to not exhibit some elements of familiarity such as, the casual use of mild profanity.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I rather suspect you would take it as a vulgar colloquialism, a profane expression of disagreement.

It's been what, 25 or 30 years? Darlin' I reckon you know by now that I do "vulgar" and "profane" before small-ish audiences!

Just tryin' to get you to concede that this word isn't a colloquialism, that's all.

You don't make the call, I don't make the call. Merriam-Webster makes the call.

As to whether the word is appropriate for a given message board, its owner makes the call.

(It may surprise you, after so many years, but I actually take exception to alot of the language I hear on prime time TV. I always liked Hallmark Hall of Fame...)

cafkia's picture

Merriam-Webster makes the

Merriam-Webster makes the call.

No, they tell us what is proper and acceptable in using words. It hardly takes much exposure to common conversation to know that several of your fellow citizens deviate from those dictates quite frequently. I will stand by my assessment. For all intent and purpose "bullshit" and "I disagree" are synonymous.

reform4's picture

We live in an era?...

Where the Vice President and Speaker Of The House have both told colleagues to "go fuck themselves" within the hallowed halls of Congress.

Manufactured offense at saying "I call bullshit" on an argument is just plain silly. Calling it equivalent to the trash on KNS comments is even sillier.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Didn't mean to seem to pick on you, FC. In fact, you're one of my favs around here...

I guess I found it a little jarring that in a single sentence you referred to Scott as "Mr. Barker," then denounced his comment as "bullshit?"

Asking gently if maybe the polite opening was undone by the rude objection that followed, resulting in a communication that likely irritated rather than persuaded?

None of this really relevant to Kenny's topic...

And as to Kenny's topic, Kenny, I want you to know that I've kinda "come around" to an opinion on the McElroy story since we talked on the phone the other night.

Since that time, I looked into Mike Cohen's suspicion that KNS doesn't generally publish stories on DUIs and I came to understand that this one really was published in only an obligatory manner, because the arrestee was the editor's son.

That made a difference in my mind and so did the fact that no other media outlets published it, either.

As to comments on the McElroy story having been disabled, it also made a difference in my mind that even Katie, beleaguered as she was in KNS comment threads previously, felt it was an appropriate decision.

As to comments on that subsequent DUI story having been enabled, I really do see a distinction to be made, in that the subsequent DUI involved property damage and risk to young children in the vehicle. Maybe some public discourse is in order to mull whether extenuating circumstances like these should net stiffer DUI penalties?

We got off track a bit with this talk about vitriol in KNS comments, of course, but on that subject I've said and continue to say: Why not just flush those folks out with our own more civil participation, in bulk?

It's perfectly within our shared ability to become the new majority on that site.

It is a lot like work, though, trying to persuade folks they oughta be more like us. We'll probably want to avoid telling them their opinions are "bullshit."


Tamara Shepherd's picture


Once the KNS paywall goes up, the ugly comments are going to drop quickly. So you've only got a few more months to suffer through, y'all.

And I think you're right about this, Cari, although I dislike the trend.

I've been reading lots of newspapers statewide for years now and it looks like I'm gonna have to start paying to keep doing that.

Hildegard's picture

Anybody who objects to the

I can't believe we're arguing about the word bullshit. I feel like I'm in a Twilight Zone episode.

Andy Axel's picture

One might call it "malarkey?"

One might call it "malarkey?"

reform4's picture

I prefer "hogwash"

Can we settle on that?

SnM's picture

Not that he needs my help

Barker has absorbed quite a bit of abuse here previously, possibly bordering on libelous.

He might be remembering that, and possibly expecting a little more institutional memory.

He's my friend. One and done.

redmondkr's picture

Flooding the KNS comment

Flooding the KNS comment sections with reason is a noble endeavor Tamara, but you'll find that anything written by or viewed as sympathetic to a member of any of those groups Beanster mentioned above would only bring on a hail of derision.

When KV users had tag lines automatically added to our comments, Steve chose a quotation from William Gibbs McAdoo, "It is impossible to win an argument with an ignorant man."

A glance at the comments on any of Mark Harmon's columns shows Mr. McAdoo was spot on.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I can't believe we're arguing about the word bullshit. I feel like I'm in a Twilight Zone episode.

It's just that we all know Scott is conscious, when he posts here under his own name, that he's "representing" KNS--whether or not he cares to.

It's evident in his tone and in his choice of words.

He likely does "vulgar" and "profane" before small-ish audiences, too, but I think for us to speak to him in a tone or with a choice of words he's unable to use in his replies to us is to provoke him unfairly.

I therefore think it's rude.

Fabricant's picture

You don't think him equating

You don't think him equating Knoxviews commenters to Knoxnews commenters is rude?

reform4's picture

Much more offensive to me

Than the word "bullshit". I consider it truly hate speech. :)

Hildegard's picture

Let me tell you something. I

Let me tell you something. I like and respect Scott Barker. He's a real news man. But he is also a man who (I think) can take the rougher, ruder side of barroom-level banter, which includes, on the daintier end of the scale, the word bullshit. It probably is rude, but that seems rather beside the point. Tell the caller he is rude, and offer a counterpoint. But don't make a big f8ckin' deal out of it:-)

Bbeanster's picture

One of the saddest things

One of the saddest things I've seen on that comment section was the trashing of the victims of the Unitarian church shooting. A year or so later I talked to a candidate for public office who happened to be a surviving victim. She didn't want that mention, however, because she feared it would be used against her.
And she was probably right.

Rachel's picture

Unitarian shooting

I agree. And even a lot of the nicer comments were something along the lines of "I don't like the Unitarians but..."

Reminded me of my 6th grade teacher announcing to the class that the President had been shot and killed with "he was a horrible man and a terrible President, but he shouldn't have been SHOT."

And I agree with Hilde about Scott, who I know personally and like & respect a whole lot. A WHOLE lot. Which is one reason I don't mind speaking my mind to him. I don't think I was abusive doing it. I hope not anyway.

redmondkr's picture

He may as well have told the

He may as well have told the world my sister worked in a brothel.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


You don't think him equating Knoxviews commenters to Knoxnews commenters is rude?

Don't care to take that bait, except to opine that we do have a few obnoxious kneejerks here, too. Just a few.

On the subject of what can be done about KnoxNews, though, I think like Scott does.

Anyone who doesn't choose to participate at KnoxNews--who'd rather feel vicitimized by its regular commenters--is really part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Fabricant's picture

Strong stand, way to be

Strong stand, way to be consistent in your accusations of rudeness. Enjoy living in your PG world.

Bbeanster's picture

BTW, tamara, you're looking

BTW, tamara, you're looking up the wrong word. Bullshit is vulgar; not profane.

1. Marked by contempt or irreverence for what is sacred.

God's Nightgown! is profane.

Rachel's picture

Tamera, I used to try to


I used to try to participate on the KNS comments section. Still do, occasionally.

But knocking your head on that wall hurts a lot pretty quick. Trying to make a difference there is like draining the ocean with a teaspoon.

Oh, heck, pick your own cliche. It's late.

fischbobber's picture


I love writing polite, fact-filled stuff about gun control and Al Gore. Drives the regular writers nuts. It's like poking hamsters with pencils.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


It is late.

Night, all.

CBT's picture

I have read most, but not all

I have read most, but not all of the now 129 comments here. I strongly disagree with the anonymous comments on the NS site.

What I've not seen is a statement from the NS of why it's so important to keep the comments anonymous (when balanced against the hateful, racist, personal attacks often found in said comments). Maybe I missed it in the BS debate.

It can't be costs. Registration via some reliable method (which the WBIR and the Tennessean sites already require) would seem to cut down the costs of the 'safety patrol' needed to police the vile and vulgar.

I've heard (from some at the NS) that one rationale is the 'powers that be' don't want to somehow promote Facebook or some other such site by requiring registration through those sites. But, given many commenters will already be on FB, is it that big a deal to possibly increase the BILLION or so already on FB by a few hundred?

I've also heard some at the NS think the comments section is 'funny'. If it's humor you're looking for, the NS should develop it's version of the Onion. Isn't the NS site a news site?

Surely no one disagrees that having to sign your name/identity would produce more responsible debate. Surely the NS would be in favor of that. Surely?

Online public comments on news stories can provide new information, contrary opinions, etc. It's good to have comments. Just not anonymous.

So, I would ask the NS to please make a public statement as to why it's made the business decision to continue to allow anonymous comments on its site.

The bottom line for me is if the NS wouldn't permit it in print, it shouldn't allow it on it's website. I've seen no good reason to the contrary. Just my opinion.

Average Guy's picture

The costs

, I stayed away for about 36 hours but only with the understanding that McElroy would personally monitor the comments early on.

If the editor is spending part of his day monitoring comments, I'd say the cost is high.

Hopefully the paywall will end the problem and focus can revert back to the content of the story, not what people are saying about the story.

Pam Strickland's picture

It was one column, one day.

It was one column, one day. Not an every day thing. He could pop online, look at them and pop off. It was an exceptional situation. And I was appreciative in that situation that he took the interest because I was writing about something that was exceedingly personal, yet very much part of the national conversation at the moment. As I understand it Lail and others were closely monitoring the comments that day too.

Average Guy's picture

I understand and can

I understand and can appreciate how you'd see it. I hope you can see how a subscriber of the KNS may see it.

Whether it was one day or one minute, I don't think it's a best use of time for an editor of a paper the size of KNS.

As a reader, I’d like to see McElroy working on a “No Jack” column for every Friday paper.

Reporters and columnists would submit the most pertinent questions of elected officials they can’t get answered. Donilla could submit his most important question on the Duncan situation, Satterfield could submit the questions she like to ask the DA, Sheriff and Blackwood regarding the Baumgartner situation and local drug scene and you could have standing questions for Burchett and his campaign treasurer. (for example)

Print the questions and show a “days not answered” total.

I really don’t like any public official giving “no comment” answers.

I also don’t like, as a reader, being in the dark on the doggedness of the attempts to get beyond those answers.

The “days not answered” totals wouldn’t provide much of a story, but it would certainly give context on the type public officials Knox Countians keep electing.

barkers's picture

The doggedness of a reporter

The doggedness of a reporter isn't part of the story. It's what we do. The story is what the government (or whatever) is doing. I could regale you with stories about the lengths reporters go to in order to report these stories, but for the general public it doesn't matter. Do you care that Michael Patrick spent the night underneath a homeowner's deck so he could get photos of the train derailment in Farragut a couple of years ago? No. All you care about is seeing the photos. Do you care that I had to camp outside a county office where Cynthia Finch had hidden so that I could get a comment from her on a story? No. You don't care and you shouldn't care. We journalists like to hear these stories because that's our profession, but the general public typically doesn't give a damn about our travails. Nor should they. The story is what matters, not how the information is obtained (though that should be disclosed).

Average Guy's picture

You’re wrong on what I care

You’re wrong on what I care about. And while I think it’s unfortunate for you, having to camp outside a public official’s office just to get them to answer questions should be part of the story. The degree that public officials attempt to keep the public’s business out of the public eye is important. Or at least it should be.

We’re both talking about what a reader “knows”.

As for me, the last I know of questions regarding the JDIII situation, was that; “Duncan's status was not immediately available. His attorney, Jeff Hagood, was out of town and said he could not comment.”

Has his status changed? Is his lawyer still out of town?

Does a reporter call every week in attempts to find out what’s going on with that office?

I hold out a reporter does, just one of things as a reader I’d like to know.

barkers's picture

The reporter on the Duncan

The reporter on the Duncan story is Mike Donila, who is one of the most aggressive, dogged and talented reporters I've ever known. He's on top of it. Duncan got married on Jan. 29, if memory serves, and is on his honeymoon. But if Mike needs to get hold of Duncan, he will.

Average Guy's picture

No Disagreement on Donilla

But I think the fact that two of Duncan’s top officials (ones that he hired) plead guilty to “facilitating” a crime, makes for an obvious need.

Am I wrong there has been no additional comment since the original report nearly a month ago?

Maybe attempts have been made to get more information. If so, I guess we’d just have to disagree on whether the Knox County Trustee’s refusal to provide any is “news”.

barkers's picture


Duh. Two of Duncan's aides pleading guilty to facilitation is a big deal. We have tried to get more information. But if we do not get more information, we can't write about it. I just don't know how to make it any simpler. Information = story.

Average Guy's picture

Told you we disagreed

Public's right to know about public office crime + public official declining to provide any knowledge = story

There was constant pressure from the paper on the Burchett campaign finance story. Burchett declined involvement, yet there were numerous follow-up pieces after that declaration.

Whether or not one agreed with the attention the campaign story got, I'd think all could agree the KNS's focus and doggedness forced the issue to resolution.

I feel there are numerous issues where the KNS could help citizens find the same type resolution. Instead we get a lawyer that's out of town and a trustee that's on a honeymoon.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Surely no one disagrees that having to sign your name/identity would produce more responsible debate.

I've wondered, Chad...

Consider that Brian Paone, who always posted there under some variation of his own full name, has been banned seven or eight times.

Mike Mitchell, who until he hit on the screen name "Jack McLeroy" for a long time used some screen name utilizing the word "Nine," was also someone easily identified there, yet was banned over and over.

Even Chuck Jensen, who is back and again posting under his own name, has been banned once, I think it was.

Ending anonymity may smoke out some offenders, but I tend to agree with Cari that putting up that paywall may affect as much positive change?

In any event, the task is just to keep one's comments there civil, no matter the provocation, and trust that the next passer-by will note whose argument is polite and reasonable and whose is rude and shrill.

barkers's picture

Wow. Nice discussion. And I

Wow. Nice discussion. And I appreciate the kind words from SnM, Hildegard, Rachel and others.

Let me be clear that I did not object to the use of the word "bullshit." In my opinion, there are no bad words -- only words used badly. The only reason I pointed it out is that its use was an example that KV is not immune to caustic comments. Hilde is right -- I am not offended by barroom banter. You don't last very long in a newsroom if you are easily offended. One of my nicknames in the newsroom is Beelzebarker, which I got by having a rather dark sense of humor.

Jack McElroy has addressed the issue of anonymous comments here: (link...)

Personally, I don't like to comment anonymously. I'm old school. Or just plain old. That's why I post here under my own name, though I easily could use a pseudonym. Like knoxnews, KV allows anonymous comments. The policy in and of itself does not debase the debate.

Michael's picture

Y'all are funny

Those of you who think that there is any simple means for disallowing anonymity on Internet forums are being naive. It sounds as if some of you would be shocked to learn that not all Facebook characters are real. And using pseudonyms (there are more than a few here), without some frame of reference or familiarity, is virtually indistinguishable from anonymity.

On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.

Pam Strickland's picture

Independent of this

Independent of this discussion, a friend read this piece by Meghan Daum in The Believer yesterday and thought of me. I haven't had time to read it, but she teased out a couple of quotes for me.

"These days, being attacked isn’t just the result of saying something badly, it’s the result of saying anything at all. I can testify to this, because for more than six years, I have been a weekly opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times. This is a great gig, and I have many loyal, smart, thoughtful readers. But I also live with the fact that practically everything I write is met with an avalanche of invective. It runs the gamut from partisan attacks to personal attacks to entreaties to my editors to stop publishing me immediately."

"But if most writers have long understood that publishing is a privilege that carries certain responsibilities—foremost among them taking the time to present ideas in a careful and thoughtful manner, ideally with the help of one or more editors—many readers seem to be approaching their commenting privileges like teenagers with newly minted driver’s licenses. Belted in by anonymity and often distracted by the equally reckless ravings of their peers, they take potshots, spread untruths, and, at their worst, spew racism and bigotry that would put a professional writer out of business in a nanosecond."

I've always enjoyed reading Daum's work, so I look forward to having time this weekend to read the entire piece.

Fabricant's picture

The link is to a piece by Pam

The link is to a piece by Pam Strickland on the Fiscal Cliff.

Fabricant's picture

So, the nasty nature of

So, the nasty nature of comments sections is a global phenomenon and not specific to certain papers or certain ideological groups abstaining from rebuttals.

barkers's picture

Yeah. Have you read the

Yeah. Have you read the comments at other new websites? They are similar.

barkers's picture


Toby, I like you, but you have posted some of the most inconsiderate things I've read. So don't get on your high horse. The Atlanta Journal-Copnstitution has a pretty robust comment section.

barkers's picture

Get on there and comment.

Get on there and comment. Raise the level of discourse. Just calling it a sewer is cowardly and quite frankly beneath you.

Fabricant's picture

Yeah, KNS commenters express

Yeah, KNS commenters express cultural idiosyncrasies but I agree its not too different from other news sites, Knoxviews excluded.

Pam Strickland's picture

Sorry, I inserted the wrong

Sorry, I inserted the wrong link earlier,and now can't be back and edit that post. This is the correct link the Meghan Daum piece.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Can't run a klan rally outta town without a confrontation--or contact of some kind.

bizgrrl's picture

I've just been proud to stand

I've just been proud to stand up as a member of the Democratic Party in Blount County. No way will I protest a klan rally.

fischbobber's picture

Klan Stories

Did they have the silver and turquoise belt buckles?

redmondkr's picture

Do you actually believe that

Do you actually believe that anyone with article generating privileges here would refrain from announcing a family's joy in giving birth to the new year's first baby in town for fear of bigoted comments or that our host would feel the need to disable comments on such an article?

How far do you think those commenters you shut out would have gotten spewing their hate here at KnoxViews?

Keep in mind that, most of the time, registration is not even required to comment here.

Factchecker's picture

As the original BSer

Seriously, I'd recommend walking back the idea that Koxviews bears any resemblance to the KNS comments sewer. That's an insanely stupid comment.

Between other activities and the perplexing s*storm over this, I had to step back for a couple days. In this instance "bullshit" was used instead of "malarkey," etc. to convey the degree of disagreement I had with Barker's comment and the scale of difference (I believe obvious) between the nastiness of comments here and in KNS comments. I could have also replied "You gotta be (fill in the blank)-ing me." I really don't see a reasonable person comparing the occasional nastiness in comments here with the realm of what is common over there.

Subliminally perhaps I was curious whether strong language, which is what it was intended as, would confuse Barker's reasoning skills. Looks like it did. I know he's better than that. Hell, he gave out kudos to Hilde after her(?) deadeye comment about Greg Johnson!

And Tamara, you are way too nice! : >)

barkers's picture

I've got a lot more important

I've got a lot more important things to worry about right now than comparing the comments at knoxviews with those at knoxnews. But I'll do it one last time.

I was not offended by the profanity. After all, I'm a journalist, and we sometimes say worse things to each other as morning greetings in the newsroom. But many others might be offended by it.

I also said the number of vitriolic comments -- the scale, in other words -- is much greater at knoxnews. That is in part because of the much larger volume of comments and the in part because knoxnews attracts a much wider swath of the political spectrum. Yes, there are a lot of conservatives, some of them who are extreme right-wingers, who comment on knoxnews. But it also appears evident that the ratio of liberals commenting on knoxnews is much higher than the ratio of conservatives posting at knoxviews.

The type of vitriol also is different in quality. Some at knoxviews post personal attacks but rarely does anyone post racist or sexist comments. At knoxnews, some people post racist or sexist comments (typically, they are deleted and sometimes the poster is banned). I am not saying they are morally equivalent; I'm saying that they can be equally rude.

To say that all comments at knoxnews combine to form a sewer is a blanket statement that is not borne out by a review of comments. Many people there post thoughtful comments, regardless of their political persuasion. To compare, as metulj did, the knoxnews comments sections to KKK rallies, is akin to saying that East Carolina University is nothing but a convenient home to lazy and incompetent professors.

Rachel claims anonymity is the problem, but people post here anonymously all the time. Metulj, Hildegard, Factchecker and many others don't use their real names.

As I said, I've got more important things to worry about, so I'll go back to my fretting.

Fabricant's picture

Racism and Sexism is not

Racism and Sexism is not morally equivalent to rudeness. And comparing Knoxviews to Knoxnews commenters is like comparing KNS to National Review. So, yeah...whatever.

reform4's picture

Good point

To say that all comments at knoxnews combine to form a sewer is a blanket statement that is not borne out by a review of comments. Many people there post thoughtful comments, regardless of their political persuasion.

I will concede that, and yes, my calling the KNS comments section a "sewer" as a whole is too broad a statement. There's plenty of just plain water and even honey in that effluent, but there's a 1000 times as many turds floating around there than there are here. Most of the truly ugly personal comments here I've seen here tend to come from the anonymous unregistered posters. Not all, but most in what I've seen. And this place is pretty good about policing it's own.

Rachel's picture

Rachel claims anonymity is

Rachel claims anonymity is the problem, but people post here anonymously all the time. Metulj, Hildegard, Factchecker and many others don't use their real names.

I said it was PART of the problem, and I think it is.

It's true folks post here under screen names. I used to do it myself. But it's also true that regular posters here are a fairly small community, and many of us know who each other are. For example, I know who both metulj and hilde are IRL.

It's also true that when someone on KV gets way out of line, they usually get called on it - by a variety of folks. Being vile here for the sake of being vile doesn't bring you much of a reward. On the KNS, it seems like it's more of a contest to see who can be the vilest - and the more vile the comment, the mor applause it gets.

At any rate, the comparison between KV and the KNS is really a diversion. The truth is that a fair number of folks are really disturbed by the KNS comments. At least I've heard that in many different venues, from many different people, not just KV posters. And it's no doubt a larger # of folks than those who are disturbed by the use of "bullshit" on KV because the KNS has a much larger readership.

I've already said that I think the KNS should provide for comments. But I also think the paper should try to take some steps to improve the quality of the dialog. One such step might be to try to limit anonymity.

I STILL haven't gotten an answer to why the paper resists trying that. As I used to tell my mom when she said "because I said so" - there must be a REASON; why won't you tell me what it is so I can understand?

Fabricant's picture

Barker provided a link to

Barker provided a link to McElory's statement on anonymity above. Here it is again link

Rachel's picture

Sorry I missed that - and I

Sorry I missed that - and I did read it previously.

However, srsly, McElroy compares the KNS comments to the Federalist papers? I don't think I would have gone there.

The newspaper's Web sites receive 50,000-60,000 comments a month. Any real effort to verify identities would reduce that torrent to a trickle.

And that would necessarily be bad because??? A trickle of non-sexist, not-racist, non-I-hate-everybody-but-my-tribe comments might be a damned sight better than the torrent of crap out there now (I apologize in advance to those offended by "damned" and "crap.").

Even if the logistics could be worked out, remember that much Internet use occurs at work. Would employees in the City County Building or in any other workplace feel as free to participate in the civic dialog if they knew their time-stamped comments were signed?

Well, I hope not. The simple truth is that folks shouldn't be commenting from work, and certainly not from a govt account unless they're doing it as part of their job duties - in which case they should sign their names.

And "even if the logistics could be worked out?" I understand this isn't the easiest task in the world, but it's also my understanding that other papers have managed it.

As arguments, these seems like pretty weak tea to me.

And I'm way past starting to repeat myself, so I'm outta this discussion. Will be curious to see what happens with the paywall.

Fabricant's picture

I don't think he is comparing

I don't think he is comparing KNS to the Federalist papers but demonstrating the potential positives of anonymity. Anonymity basically lies at the core of free speech: the ability to express ideas without threat of repercussion. And it has had its historical and contextual uses. Unfortunately, it also facilitates the hatefulness found in the Knoxnews comments sections and much of the internet. But this is likely to be countered by its positives, such as providing subordinate groups the civic space to participate in public life and offers partial means to resist these forms of domination. Anonymity was certainly important for the women's and civil rights movements a few decades ago. So, while it facilitates racism and sexism anonymity also provides avenues of resistance--remember blocking people from spewing racist and sexist comments doesn't make these horrors go away but alters its manifestation. Certainly, those suffering from these ills IRL may find anonymity on the net to be quite friendly. So, what are you going to do? By trying to solve one problem you may create another.

So, the logistics problem doesn't particularly concern me. And why do I care if people sneak off at work and post comments? Americans are overworked enough already.

barkers's picture

Yes, it's a small community

Yes, it's a small community at knoxviews. I know metulj and rachel and hilde in real life, too. Like them all. In fact, metulj and I get along much better in real life than we do here. I also know Chuck Jensen and others who post on knoxnews in real life. Like them too.

Size matters. The conversation among a small coterie of generally like-minded individuals will be different from the conversation among a large number of people with manifold, passionately-held views. Knoxnews and knoxviews are different; vive la difference.

People who get out of line at knoxnews generally are called out on it by other posters, much in the same way that Randy lets conversations go here without much interference. It can be a rough place, I admit, and sometimes posters get carried away (and usually get comments deleted or banned for their enthusiasm), but it's not a KKK rally or even a beer-fueled barroom. Nobody who comments there is at any risk of physical abuse, any more than I feel at risk of physical abuse from those who have insulted me here. Metaphors should be taken only so far, both from the point of view of the author and the point of view of the reader.

As I said, part of the difference is volume. And part of the difference is in the diversity of opinion, which in my opinion is much greater at knoxnews than it is here. This is no slam on knoxviews, by the way; knoxviews and knoxnews serve a different purpose. Knoxviews is a forum for progressive thought, while knoxnews is more of a political free-for-all on issues of the day. There is room for both.

For example, in the knoxnews story metulj referred to about the 90-year-old man killed by an apparently Hispanic driver on Rutledge Pike, there were lots of comments about the driver's possibly being an illegal immigrant and that he should not even have been on the road, but there also were comments in response pointing out that the driver's immigration status was not addressed in the article and was irrelevant to the terrible event. Also, there were many expressions of condolences for the family. A couple of the worst comments were deleted by staff but most were allowed to stand because they didn't violate the user agreement (just like factchecker's profanity did not violate the user agreement here). A conversation on the same incident here would be different, but no more or less valid as a forum for public discourse.

Fabricant's picture

So, you are basically

So, you are basically admitting that you were wrong to equate the two forums.

barkers's picture

No, I am not. If anyone has

No, I am not. If anyone has perceived that I have made them equivalent, then they are not perceptive enough to see the nuances in my posts. Of course, perceiving nuance is a lost art, which is one reason our political discourse has fallen.

Fabricant's picture

Your reasons for why

Your reasons for why different phenomena happen are not very convincing. But since you bring up the issue of nuance perception, who was asking you to state the reasons why Knoxviews is different from Knoxnews in the first place?

And I basically said what you did earlier:

IMO, these are just different types of forums for different types of people looking for different types of conversations.

And you said:

Although I will say that the comments on KV can be as nasty as the ones on Knoxnews.

That is flat bullshit. Knoxviews never gets as nasty as Knoxnews. The two don't compare and they don't equate because they are two different types of forums, as you yourself argue (your reasons, aside). And I would argue that political discourse is declining because people are not able to reflect on their own words and admit their inconsistencies.

Hildegard's picture

About that anonymity thing. I

About that anonymity thing. I post as Hildegard b/c of the internet. Occasionally I come clean as Julia Gautreau, Esq., for the sake of principle. But all the people you named as anonymous are sort of identifiable in the circles in which we post. Just to clarify - I ain't hidin' from anybody.

barkers's picture

I know you're not hiding.

I know you're not hiding. And, yes, many people here know who you are. But a newby to knoxviews would have no clue and it would take a long time for them to equate Hildegard with Julia Gautreau. It took me a while, and I first discovered your identity in real life, not online. Nothing wrong with that. I'm just saying that anonymity in and of itself is no guarantee of civil discourse. I had civil interactions with you long before I knew your real name. And hope to continue them for some time in the future.

I bet there are plenty of people who read knoxviews who have no idea as to the identity of metulj or factchecker. Shoot, I don't know factchecker's real identity.

Pam Strickland's picture

Your teaching is not put on

Your teaching is not put on display for hundreds of thousands each day. Work that has been done in a rush with inadequate time to review and pushed through with fewer and fewer editors given less and less time to review.

As I told a reader Friday who sent me an email calling me both "ignorant" and a "damned liar," withou specifying what I was ignorant about or what I was lying about, my name was attached to it and my picture was there, so people could find me to call me those names. He's written me an anonymous email under the name "hillbilly."

barkers's picture

I'm not sure Scripps would

I'm not sure Scripps would allow me to post my job evaluations, but let me tell you that I would not mind one bit if they did. I've won four national journalism awards, multiple Southeastern regional awards and numerous statewide awards. So, yeah, I wouldn't mind one bit if my evals were public.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Oh, FC, surely we all know one another well enough that there wasn't really any "shitstorm" over that colloquialism/vulgarism/profanity debate (no asterick required in that descriptor)?

I was just trying to point out that the comment was a bit brusque or "caustic," as Scott characterized it.

It's not like I haven't posted brusque or caustic comments myself, from time to time.

Those racist and sexist and homophobic comments at KNS aside, I just agree with Scott that people there and here both can sometimes be rude.

Obviously, I'm not offended by it personally. I post at both sites!

Pam Strickland's picture

Well, I am offended. And,

Well, I am offended. And, yes, I grew-up in a newsroom where the language can frequently turn the air blue. However, that doesn't mean that I like it and it doesn't mean that I believe civilized people shouldn't try to speak to each other in a more respectful manner in public. It's one thing in a private conversation, quite another in public, which an Internet forum certainly is.

And I know that makes me the exception to the rule in this forum. So be it. The increasing courseness of language is one of the things that I believe is contributing to the complete lack of respect that we show one another. When I was teaching, I expecting decorum in my classroom and that including a ban on certain words--starting with the word "sucks" meaning "something disappointing." I considered it a means of vocabulary broadening.

Fabricant's picture

Well, this forum allows words

Well, this forum allows words like "bullshit." Those are the rules and you agree to them when you participate here.

Pam Strickland's picture

I realize that, which is why

I realize that, which is why I usually don't say anything. But since this particular discussion had persisted, I decided to throw my thoughts out there.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

May I just say...

...that I agree to them?! In spite of the fact that they are not colloquialisms?!

Hey, FC, I'm good. You good? Can we, like, go talk somewhere else???

Factchecker's picture

I think I'm good, Tamara.

The storm I was referring to was not that we were having a big fight, but I was surprised that a non-gratuitous (IMO) use of that word would derail into such a debate over the use of such language at all. Like it was said, it seemed to change the thread into a Twilight Zone episode.

No big deal. I actually agree there is too much casual profanity throughout society, for the same reasons Pam states so well. I also think, though, that mature people can handle some degree of it in serious conversation. It can add expression or emphasis, just as well as it being a crutch, which it typically is when used frequently in a casual or intended comedic way.

Less profanity out in the general public and around families, please, but I'm in favor of coloring serious talk as I see fit. I understand some people are sensitive to it, though.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Arm-in-arm, then...

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