The raunch parade is over at the Colorado Springs Gazette. This week the editor of the state’s third largest daily newspaper put the kibosh on anonymous stink bombs going off in the comments section of the online newspaper – which has over the past year established a notorious reputation for noxious commentary. Ostensibly that means no more suggesting that an accused killer should be “burned at the stake.” And no more jibjabbing about Ted Haggard’s “privates” and crowing how the former pastor “got caught with his pants down (and bent over).”
Just Thursday a Gazette story about El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink’s obsession with illegal immigrants potentially trying to vote drew quite a few online responses:
“Balink wants to disinfranchise [sic] voters,” weighed in a reader named agnostigirl. “He knows that illegals voting isn’t really a problem, but also knows that a lot of people don’t have their birth certificate on hand or the means to get it.”
Tame enough, but it didn’t take long for “Jason” to weigh in.
DEMONcrats [sic] want illegals to vote so they can get their support.
And then “Annie” launched this volley:
agnostgirl, are you mentally challenged, or just stupid(?) He wants to require MORE than just a birth certificate. It is not that difficult for anyone with half a brain to get a legal copy of their birth certificate. Think BEFORE you type. Maybe you can hide your ignorance.
And then someone posted this off-topic comment, signing off as “John Morse,” which is also the name of a Democratic state senator from Colorado Springs.
I John Morse. I not two brite!
OK, back to the discussion. Here’s “marge”:
does Balink which is a pretty foreign sounding name really think there are undocumented workers risking detection and arrest by registering to vote and voting in El Paso County? Maybew [sic] he is just trying to stir the xenophobic pot so many people are buying into these days…
To which “marge” was called out, first by “town crier”:
marge, i’m pretty sure that mr. balink knows a HELL of a lot more than you about the voting process.
And then by “Mike Anderson”:
Marge, NO one gives a flying fark what you prefer to think. Colorado is Californicated and Infested.
Anyway, by the end of the day all those comments were removed from that story, and every other one on the site, replaced by an editor’s note.
“Many of you have expressed concern about some of the harsh anonymous comments from readers. To remedy that, we are introducing new features. You can create your own blog, publish your news and share your photos with the community. Fill out a simple form with a verifiable e-mail address and set up a profile page … We want our site to be a place where people discuss and debate ideas that foster stronger communities.”
And just to make things perfectly clear, on Friday Gazette Editor Jeff Thomas scoldingly spelled it all out in a note in the newspaper.
The new online posting system, he announced, is called SiteLife.
“SiteLife … gives us better tools to banish louts who stink up the joint with their offtopic and sometimes hateful bile,” Thomas wrote. “Too many discussions have been hijacked by people inventing connections to speeding tickets, or wrecked by someone throwing around schoolyard taunts.”
Those who flout the rules, Thomas vowed, will have their accounts suspended.
Got it? Good.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org