Columnists are supposed to write provocatively -- to express themselves in ways that force readers to take notice and think. But do such scribes get more leeway than Internet surfers posting comments on newspaper websites? To find out, a blogger conducted an experiment focusing on "Full-Blooded Americans Get a Vote," a recent column by Kathleen Parker (pictured), and the Denver Post, one of many papers to publish it -- and he thinks the results show that the average person is more closely monitored than are the pros.
Here are the details:
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Memekiller, a blogger whose site is called Mercenary's Cookbook, was offended by Parker's piece, which suggests that Senator Barack Obama falls short when it comes to "blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots." As he writes in a recent entry, he felt that such assertions called into question the standards at the Denver Post, which chose to publish them -- and to find out if the web department was similarly compromised, he posted some of Parker's own words as a comment to her column and then logged on as someone else to report the material as offensive. Shortly thereafter, the comment was removed, even though the Post had already published pretty much everything in it.
This action doesn't prove that the opinions of columnists and web posters are treated differently at the Post. The site's gatekeeper might simply have chosen to pull the comments rather than getting into a free-speech debate with a person allegedly upset about them -- an expedient move rather than a carefully considered or censorial one. Still, Memekiller's stunt spotlights online equity, where readers' opinions are supposed to be just as valuable as those offered by folks who get paid to share their views. With that in mind, the Post, and every newspaper, needs to make sure everyone plays by the same rules. -- Michael Roberts