RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This was the weekend of Obama, thoroughly covered in both Brazil and the U.S., and everyone has an opinion about it. From a news perspective it was great, lots of information, lots of interest and we covered it as best we could with two additional stories outside of our normal weekly publishing schedule; after his meeting with President Rousseff in Brasília on Saturday night, and after his speech in Rio on Sunday.
The scale of the operation, the logistical effort and amount of people and equipment involved were impressive. Some might say over-kill, but then we can’t have it both ways. No matter what you think of Obama’s politics, he is an important symbol globally… and a target.
As a resident of Rio and new citizen of Brazil, as well as an American patriot, I was personally a little embarrassed by the fanfare but happy that everything seemed to go well. These are relative statements of course, and there are plenty of critics, as there should be.
Something that The Rio Times has been dealing with is the amount of comments submitted to the site about it. Everything from thinly veiled racial slurs about Obama’s basketball skills to calling Cabral (governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro) a joke for praising the UPP efforts.
The question of comments actually became a hot topic the last week for us, when a local business owner explained how the comments on the site were a real turn-off for many (meaning loss of Advertiser revenue), and suggested reconsidering the policy.
This led to a review of current industry standards and best practices. It seems the New York Times has now done away with them altogether, The Guardian, CNN and BBC require identifiable Registration and offer a Report Abuse option.
Some of you may know that this led The Rio Times to conduct a poll, and the results were in favor of open comments. Almost 60 percent are in favor of an uncensored comment policy on news articles.
However as a Reader comment pointed out: “[One] problem with the poll here might be that the same people who answer the poll are the ones more likely to comment on the website, so of course they will vote yes…”
Removing comments all-together is bad for the spirit of community we want to foster, and seems a waste of Internet media capabilities. Requiring Registration and offering a Report Abuse feature are good solutions, but require significant investment in technology development.
We are a small community news business that cannot afford to insult Advertisers or pick reckless fights with Politicians. Our goal is to inform our community, and with that comes a responsibility to do so as objectively as possible – and hope our Readers will continue to help us do that.
We do not know exactly how we will handle comments yet, but for now they will be moderated conservatively. Please, continue to leave comments, share your point of view, but write it with some circumspection and respect – as you would for your grandmother or baby sister.
In the meantime we know the biggest negative reaction to this is fear of censorship, and so we’ll offer a deal. We will publish anything you write that is contentious, highly critical and/or heavily opinionated, as a Letter to the Editor, along with your (verified) name and contact information. We will take the same risk as you are willing to take.