By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sunday-morning notes

A few quick observations:

1. Boston Globe ombudsman Richard Chacón writes today that he’s started a blog. You can find it here. Cruise on over, and you’ll run into his assertion that “this particular blog does not yet have the technical capability to allow people to post their comments directly.” Really? Blogger.com does, and it’s free. Then again, as much as I’m for transparency, if Chacón opens things up to all comers, there will be so many idiotic comments to wade through that it will be nearly impossible to find the worthwhile stuff. A dilemma.

2. Genocide historians Peter Balakian and George H. Stanton follow up in a Globe op-ed piece on the dispute over the Armenian catastrophe of World War I. Massachusetts education officials have eliminated materials that suggest the deaths of one million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire may not have constituted genocide. The question: Did those Massachusetts officials somehow abridge the First Amendment, as my friend Harvey Silverglate, the noted civil-liberties lawyer, contends? The answer, according to Balakian and Stanton: No. They write:

The Turkish government and its supporters are free to express their thoughts, but it does not follow that their genocide denial websites are entitled to endorsement in Massachusetts classrooms.

The First Amendment permits us to express anything, but is does not enable a foreign government’s falsification of history to be taught in our public schools.

To which I add: They’re right if they’re right. That is, if there is absolutely no legitimate scholarship showing that what happened may not have been genocide, then I agree with Balakian and Stanton. But I don’t know the answer to that contentious question.

3. Katharine Seelye has more in today’s New York Times on what’s good — and bad — about the Wikipedia, adding some details to John Siegenthaler’s harrowing tale of anonymous libel. I’m not going to give up linking to Wikipedia entries, but I’m going to look at them more closely than ever.

4. Finally, a production note: Yesterday I made the switch to Ecto (or, as the programmer would have it, ecto), a sort-of word-processing program that makes it easy to write and post blog entries without having to go to the Blogger.com Web site.

Among other things, Ecto makes it simple to have links open in windows of their own. Now, if you click on a link, Media Nation will remain open rather than disappearing into the ether.


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11 Comments

  1. Steve

    One more news media thing happened recently – the firing of Ed Carroll and Todd Gross, chief meteorologists at Ch 4 and Ch 5 respectively.I haven’t found much comment in the media about this. Ed Carroll’s departure has passed with little comment. Todd Gross, though, has been in the forefront of internet dissemination of weather discussions in the past decade. He created the usenet group ne.weather and was part of the creation of ne.weather.moderated. He also created the group whdhwx and until a couple of days ago was a moderator of that group. His firing has provoked a mini-storm of protest on easternuswx and on this thread the whdhwx board.There’s a lot of emotion but not a lot of hard info in these threads, though – Todd has posted “this is an interesting situation and I”ll fill you in in a bit. I may need your support”. And another moderator of the group has posted:”we have to ask that the posts are limited to weather topics. Please continue to posts as you have in the past.At chat this Wednesday we request that it pertain to the weather, this will keep any problems from escillating(sic) for Todd. He will be in touch when he has had the opportunity to process what is happening and what the best course of action is.””Problems escalating for Todd” has a pretty ominous ring to it.But there’s been nothing from Todd since then. I’m very curious to know the real story behind this story.

  2. Steve

    Didn’t mean to hijack the comment thread above.So about the Globe OmbudBlog – “comments and questions can be sent to us at ombud@globe.com and we – my assistant Mary Rourke and I are the only ones who manage this blog – will post them here”I don’t think they know what they’re getting into! My guess is that the Globe blog might get about 10x the comment traffic than Dan gets here. (No offense, Dan. It’s just that you didn’t launch your blog with a prominent column in the Globe.) If they get that amount of traffic, won’t this swamp Chacon and Rourke?How will they separate the blog comment traffic from the regular ombud@globe.com ombudsman traffic? Or is it their aim to merge the two?

  3. Anonymous

    They will do with the blog what they do with letters to the ombudsman, ignore them. In years of writing to the Globe Ombudsman, (perhaps 30 or so missives in total), I have been acknowledged ONCE by the Globe. That one acknowledgement included a response. Try emailing Mac Daniel of Starts and Stops sometime. I’m sure that Mac is being asked to do the impossible but bottom line is that issues of public safety are ignored. I once wrote him that someone would one day put a car into the Big Dig construction ditch on Atlantic Ave. near High St. Two weeks later a cab driver almost killed himself and his passenger there. Traffic light at Seaport Blvd. and Atlantic has been inoperative since JULY, leaving pedestrians to scatter like geese. Globe knows it and ignores it. I now have a rapprochment with El Globo, they ignore me and I ignore them. What a shame.

  4. Norwegianity

    No opinion on Chacon, but the comments remark was a little on the cheap side. I would think that a newspaper would have to have someone monitoring comments 24/7 to avoid lawsuits. I know that I’ve made the decision to post more instead of having comments at my blog. Comments are a royal pain in the butt, an open door for spammers, and – frankly – they distract from my message by letting flamers have their say.Some blogs choose to ride herd on their commenters, and their threads are worthwhile, but most end up like Atrios’ flamepits, nasty and uninviting.Yeah, blogger is a solution, but for those of us with self-hosted blogs, comments aren’t all that easily dealt with.

  5. Anonymous

    Chacon could institute blogs, instant messages, text messages to your cell phone, you name it, and it won’t matter — he lost credibility forever with that Red Sox column that ignored the Shaughnessy-as-Lucchino’s mouthpiece column and then went on to basically apologize for taking his bosses to task over the championship rings. Wake me up if they ever get an ombudsman with teeth.

  6. Anonymous

    Good point, 3:25. Vennochi took some major shots at BC last week for having the effrontery to steer scarce athletic tickets for alumni to major contributors, (like the rest of ACC).She inquired whether BC should have ponied up $$ for Pop Warner teams to go to FL, (as if we’re talking about a for-profit corporation). Kinda begs the question of what good the Globe could do with the proceeds of auctioning off two World Series rings, eh? Reminds one of the old saw that “a liberal is someone who would give you the shirt off MY back”…

  7. Anonymous

    “Shaughnessy-as-Lucchino’s mouthpiece”Still no evidence of this. Repeat it often enough and it will become true.

  8. mike_b1

    To anon 7:14: Shut up, DS.To everyone else: Plenty of columnists at major dailies have blogs and have solved the “dilemmas” raised here. So the Chacon et al need look no further than, say Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune, for solutions.The issue I have is that most papers continue to find ways to put up walls between them and their customers. That’s a horrible long-term solution.

  9. Anonymous

    Repeat “the New York Times’ ownership stake in the Red Sox has no impact on the Boston Globe’s coverage of the team” enough and some people will actually believe it.

  10. neil

    The conventions for blog comments are simple enough. The owner of a blog is free to, but is under no obligation to, even read much less respond to comments, so even if the blog gets 10 times as many as say Dan’s does, it doesn’t amount to ten times the work for the blog owner.And who among us thinks that the ombudsman is currently so overworked he could not manage to at least read blog comments for god’s sakes. Feh!Likewise blog readers who think that the ratio of junk to value is too great in the comments are free to ignore them. Spam is blocked, for the most part, by the word verification widget.If the Globe is concerned that allowing comments to the blog implies an obligation on the part of the ombudsman to respond in some official capacity, a simple disclaimer should fix that. And anyway, how fussy! I agree with mike_b1 that the Globe is timid when it comes to interacting with customers, and examples of how to do it are easy to find. It took a long time for them to even publish staff email addresses.Based on Chacon’s picture he doesn’t look so prehistorical that he doesn’t get this whole dang internet thing. I share the opinion that so far he is more of an in-house flack than a champion of the readers, so putting himself out there may help to change that. Good for him then, for venturing out of the comfy zone. Assuming it was his idea to do so!

  11. Anonymous

    I asked Maura Welch of the Globe’s relatively new Business Filter blog – http://www.boston.com/business/blog/filter – when her blog would allow readers to post comments. Here is her response:”I am told comments will be launched in Q1 2006 – I’m a huge proponent of it.”Maura’s been great about responding to my e-mail comments about postings in her blog, but our online conversation could be so much more valuable if it could be read by everyone else.From Maura’s reply, I take that the Globe at least recognizes the importance of incorporating reader-posted comments into their blogs. They’re just not quite ready to inpmlement that feature yet.–Bryan PersonEditor, AroundTownSports.com

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