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Andrew Bolt

Mar 2, 2009

Things we shouldn't have said about Andrew Bolt

The first thing here is to apologise, sincerely, to Andrew Bolt. The second, to acknowledge the traps for the unwary in tapping too innocently into Web2 interconnectivity.

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The first thing here is to apologise, sincerely, to Andrew Bolt. The second, to acknowledge the traps for the unwary in tapping too innocently into Web2 interconnectivity.

In recent days, comment strings on the new Crikey blog Pure Poison have been a little too lurid in their attacks on the controversial Herald Sun columnist. There are some things you can’t say in polite journalism. “Racist” is one of them. “Liar” is another. We regret that these things were said about Andrew. We don’t believe he is either, and in no way condone web pages under the Crikey imprint furthering that impression. Which is where the problem lies, of course: the speed of internet publishing running blind into a thinly resourced but well-attended — and well intentioned — web publication. Comments can get under your guard. Things better left unsaid can be given sudden public prominence. Only if you happen to be looking of course (and that probably only runs into the hundreds) but that’s not the point.

The thing that Crikey has learned from its first real encounter in this past fortnight with the more floridly opinionated fringes of angrily politicised blog commentary is the importance not so much of immediate moderation of comments (that is now very much an given) but rather ensuring an overall tone in the conversation. To put it more simply we don’t want to be that kind of site. We’d rather build a reputation for reason and well-turned argument than for insult and glib denunciation.

The internet is a land of many underbellies. Apparently respectable newspaper sites court google traffic with layer on layer of celebrity-studded, skin-laden picture galleries, opinion bloggers draw short of the unmentionable under their own names and leave that dirty work to their legions of regular commenters … and given the right cues, that dirty work is done.

That’s all a little too easy, and frankly a disingenuous cop out. It’s also a mode that strays too readily to personal abuse rather than the meat of the argument. Which is where we want things to dwell at Crikey and in the discussion forums we host. We’d like to think that’s what we offer — our point of difference — in the yellowing ranks of serious Australian journalism.

The point is not to be outraged at someone’s argument, or their untenable, maybe mischievous, maybe pointedly distorted point of view. The argument is not with the writer, but with the view expressed, and that’s where we want to keep things, that will be what we will actively moderate our discussions to achieve. We want to play the ball, not the columnist.

Our comments code, the code our bloggers/moderators are contracted to observe, is based on the guidelines followed by Guardian publications. It covers most of the bases. On top of that, we will try where we can to weed out not just the vexatious and insulting, but also the frivolous and time wasting. We want to run comment … we welcome utterly that opportunity for instant, robust and accessible discussion, but we want it where possible to enrich understanding of the topic, not just flitter by in the empty, rapidly created, hot white noise of the internet.

We think that novelty has worn off.

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10 comments

10 thoughts on “Things we shouldn’t have said about Andrew Bolt

  1. Scott Bridges

    I’m not sure that there’s anything to be gained (but there’s a lot to be lost) by discussing this issue to death. Let’s move on and talk about the content of these people’s arguments and not these people.

    I’m going to turn comments off on this thread.

    ps/- Sorry to those whose comments I have just edited or deleted. Let’s just move on.

  2. Toaf

    I agree with Mondo.

  3. dam buster of Preston

    Fair enough call guys. Take the higher moral ground and keep playing the ball and not the man.

    {Sorry, DBoP. This bit had to go.}

  4. Tobias Ziegler

    Bertus – some comments have been removed, and some are edited (always with an indication of where it has been edited and why). As Scott notes, we haven’t traditionally done it much – and we don’t want to do it much.

    I think the message to take from this post is that we will do it where it needs to be done – but we also hope that all our commenters will try to stay within bounds anyway and save it from becoming an issue.

  5. Scott Bridges

    For mine, it’s just a habit. I’m not in the habit of removing comments because I have never wanted to be accused of censorship. Obviously the game must now be played a little differently.

  6. bertus

    Serious question – if you see a comment that crosses the line, like one I put in which John Surname pulled me up on and which I’ve apologised for, why don’t you just remove it? If it’s one of mine I won’t mind. Is there something about WordPress that makes it impossible to remove comments?

  7. Shabadoo

    And yet of course it is always the Right that is angry and unhinged…

  8. Jeremy Sear

    Jonathan is talking about the comments some have left. Not the posts we’ve written about Bolt, which Crikey continues to support.

    Funnily enough, whilst Andrew is apparently quick to correspond with threats, he still hasn’t provided an answer to these questions I attempted to email him on Saturday. I wonder why.

    If either Andrew or tim think they’ll be getting a free ride because of either apology – which are apologies for specific incidents, not our tackling their output in general – then they’re in for a rude shock.

  9. cosmicjester

    green is the current editor i believe

  10. Iain Hall

    Who on earth is Jonathan Green?