Feel free to leave negative feedback on the Readers’ Representative blog at the L.A. Times. Just don’t expect it to be published.
Last Friday morning, See Dubya tried to leave this comment at the Readers’ Rep blog:
I have a question about your comment moderation policies for the readers’ rep blog. Now, certainly you don’t want a free-for-all here with every sort of nut spamming your forums with conspiracy theories and Ron Paul propaganda–but I repeat myself.
Yet I am concerned that this blog will swing too far in the other direction. While the idea of a readers’ rep blog is encouraging, it won’t be of much use if the user input is moderated too heavily and doesn’t reflect the wide variety of concerns expressed by Times readers. If that happens this blog will become a lame PR exercise instead of a tool for communicating with readers–as Amy Alkon says it already is.
My friend and fellow blogger “Patterico” also says this suppression is happening and that several reasonable, but critical, comments have already been trapped in moderation limbo, never to emerge. I say balderdash, the LA Times is far too professional an operation to do that, and I bet him a Mexican dinner that you would approve and publish this comment in its entirety.
I know he’s been a real pain in the rear for the LA Times, Ms. Gold, so here’s your chance to prove him wrong and put him out for the cost of all the chimichangas I can eat. Aside from that, however, this is a topic of general interest to Times readers being discussed in the blogosphere, so a public response might be in order.
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. And the chimichangas.
Don’t count your chimichangas before they’re rolled, my friend.
Like many other comments left at the Readers’ Representative blog, See Dubya’s comment hasn’t been posted — and it won’t be, according to an e-mail See Dubya received from the Readers’ Rep. She explained that she sees the blog as “more a forum than a blog” and that it will “use readers’ questions to provide a chance for the newsroom to respond to reader concerns.”
She just doesn’t feel any obligation to allow negative comments about the paper.
See Dubya’s comment isn’t the only one that hasn’t made it through. Several other polite but critical comments haven’t been published either. For example, DRJ posed a fair, reasonable, and polite question about bias in a story about immigration in this comment. I listed four more critical comments in this post. None of them has been published.
The blog has been active for a week, and only one critical comment has been approved. I know of eight polite but critical comments that were rejected. As for the one critical comment, the Readers’ Rep inaccurately criticized the commenter for not providing specifics. Thing was, he had — as I explained in this comment, which never saw the light of day. (The Readers’ Rep did amend her comment to note her error.)
Regarding the issue of specifics, Xrlq left this comment, which set forth three specific “fabrications or distortions that were reported as fact in recent years, all of which were promptly called to the attention of your staff, and none of which resulted in a published correction.” Xrlq’s comment was not published either.
Of course, these are just the comments we know about. Who knows how many other critical comments have been deep-sixed?
The bottom line is that the Readers’ Rep blog does not have a genuine comments section. Which is a shame, because this is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with Big Media. They claim to want feedback from readers — but really, they want it only on their own terms. It’s especially galling at the blog of the ombusdman, who is, of all people, supposed to be accepting of criticism.
The comments section at the Readers’ Rep blog isn’t a real blog comments section. It’s more like a “Letters to the Editor” feature.
You can say whatever you like to them. But they probably won’t publish it.