This is a story about the L.A. Times censoring one of its bloggers — and then censoring his comments on the need to avoid such censorship.
It’s irony I couldn’t make up if I tried.
On Thursday night, L.A. Times political blogger Andrew Malcolm wrote a post about John Edwards’s denial of an extramarital affair. When some commenters complained that the story was unsupported tabloid trash, Malcolm replied in parenthetical remarks appended to the comments, saying that it was a legitimate topic because of Edwards’s denial. If the L.A. Times were to avoid discussing it, he said, that would be “censoring” a legitimate story. Here is one of the comments in question, with Malcolm’s parenthetical remark circled:
Shortly thereafter, the L.A. Times censored the post.
I wrote a post about the L.A. Times post on Thursday night. One of my readers reported at 5:05 p.m. PDT on Friday that the post had been taken down. (Since Daylight Savings my timestamps have been one hour earlier than Pacific time.) There was no explanation — or even an acknowledgment that the post had been removed. Last night (Saturday) I decided to check to see whether the post was still down. It was — over 30 hours after my commenters had reported it had been taken down.
At 11:38 p.m. last night I published a post noting that the L.A. Times post had been taken down. At 11:40 p.m. I sent an e-mail to Andrew Malcolm, the blogger whose post had been removed, asking him what had happened.
Although the post had been down for more than 30 hours, a shorter version of the post appeared within nine minutes of my e-mail to Malcolm. The re-emergence of the post was reported by commenter Itsme at 11:49 p.m. PDT. The post was shorter now, and contained this explanatory note:
(This item was originally posted Thursday evening, Oct. 11. It was removed by an editor Friday but was reposted Saturday in a shortened form.)
What was different? Not much. They simply chopped off three paragraphs at the end of the post, which had set forth details from the National Enquirer story.
Does it really take 30+ hours to remove three paragraphs from a blog post? I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m saying no. I think the editors quietly took down the post, hoping nobody would say anything. When it became apparent that somebody (me) had noticed and was going to talk about it, they put it back up.
There remained just one leetle problem. Having censored the post for over 30 hours, they still had numerous comments sprinked with blogger Andrew Malcolm’s parenthetical remarks about how important it was not to censor this story. That was kind of embarrassing, given that the editors had censored the story.
What to do about that?
By now, you’ve probably guessed the answer: they simply removed Malcolm’s parenthetical remarks. So, for example, the comment I have screencapped above now looks like this:
Malcolm’s comment about not “censoring” Edwards’s denial is gone, without any hint it was ever there.
In other words, they censored Malcolm’s opinion that it would be censorship to do what they did.
Irony just doesn’t get any more ironic.
P.S. I should note that reasonable people can certainly disagree about whether the story about Edwards’s alleged affair should have been reported based on the available evidence. That’s not the issue. The issue is the L.A. Times monkeying with (and covering up) the content of its blogs without explanation to its readers.
UPDATE: More here.