Commentz Korner: USA Today first with ‘hos’

It’s entirely predictable that a story about O.J. Simpson’s court hearing today would draw especially foul reader comments on a newspaper’s website. And that’s why you’d expect USA Today would be especially vigilant to patrol the story for objectionable comments, since the paper doesn’t require editors to approve comments before they appear.

And yet. As I write this, the following comment from this frequent commenter has been sitting on the website of the nation’s biggest-circulation newspaper for six hours and 40 minutes:

“That juice, he from a bad hood. sheeet. juice cut you up playa. whitey he just tryn get ta black man down. you no he be inocent. put a cople of black hos on da jury, sheet. he walk.”

Nice. I can imagine USA Today‘s major advertisers wondering just how down-market the paper’s demographics are heading. And I’m not sure how divisive shoutfests square with founder Al Neuharth‘s lofty wish: “USA TODAY hopes to serve as a forum for better understanding and unity to help make the USA truly one nation.”

Update on Dec. 1: I now see the following note on the commenter’s profile page, which has been wiped clean, including all comments: “This community member’s page is currently being reviewed by the editors.”

Got a profane, racist or other crazy comment that made it past your Gannett site’s filters? I’m collecting examples for Commentz Korner in hopes of shaming editors into action. Send-links to Gannett Blog — or leave a note in the comments section, below. (But be forewarned: I personally read and approve all comments on this blog before they get published!)

2 Responses to “Commentz Korner: USA Today first with ‘hos’”

  1. Ali Says:

    But, isn’t that the point of free speech, that people can say what they want. I mean, the KKK says racist stuff all the time, but police still have to protect them from acts of violence because our Rights give us the right to free speech. So, if someone wants to leave an ignorant/racist/offensive comment on a Gannett message board or Web site, isn’t that just Gannett touting the free speech that they, too, have to preserve along with their right to free press?
    I’m not saying that I agree with language like that, but I do agree with keeping the spirit of the Bill of Rights alive.
    And, sometimes ugly, hateful words do good in that they convert more people to tolerance of other culturals and to intolerance of stupidity.

  2. Editor Says:

    Good points. But let me play devil’s advocate. Gannett papers, in fact, don’t publish all comments; filtering software, which isn’t foolproof, prevents all sorts of comments from being published because of really raw language. If unmoderated-by-editors comments are a free speech issue, why filter comments at all? Also, would we publish comments like these in the printed paper if they were sent to us as a letter to the editor, signed only by someone using a fake name? If not, then why is it OK to publish them online?

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