Blogged down

VIEW POINT Mention "The Blog" and you can really raise some people's hackles. Others
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

VIEW POINT

Mention "The Blog" and you can really raise some people's hackles.  Others will tell you they don't pay attention to "The Blog."  Some ask how to find The Blog and what it's all about.

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. The term blog is short for weblog, and is considered by some the new and "modern" means of communication for the general population.

Businesses create blogs.

Kids create blogs.

Politicians create blogs.

Television stations, radio stations and newspapers create blogs.

The list of people and places have glommed onto blogging is endless.

Here in Erie County one of the more popular blogs was created by the Sandusky Register. How does it work?

The Register has created a Web site-- sanduskyregister.com, the online version of the newspaper -- and posts some of its news articles on a daily basis, then invites public comment.

Not a bad idea. Why not let people express themselves? Why not give people the opportunity to discuss the issues that are reported on the pages of the Register?

Blogging is the "modern" approach to the First Amendment.

It is really an easy thing to do.

Click on an article at sanduskyregister.com, type in the code listed, assign yourself a handle and have at it. There are few rules (which is one of the problems). The most attractive feature for many is the promise of anonymity; anyone can hide behind a made-up name. Basically, that means you can say anything you want without fear of attribution. Not a good thing, in my opinion.

It is amazing what this phenomenon of the modern era has become in this community.

Unfortunately, what started as a noble attempt at intellectual dialogue and an exchange of information and opinion has too often become a vehicle for anarcharists, cowards, racists, liars, hate-mongers and fools to let loose with damning and often fictitious comments about people, political subdivisions and public servants.

This stuff is really bad: four letter words, accusations of marital infidelity, criminal activity, child abuse, drug abuse, bigotry, and you-name-it. Don't like someone mentioned in the article? Not a problem, just make up some horrible story about them and post it.

Blogging was supposed to be a means for organizations to connect with their clients and customers and establish healthy, long-term relationships. It was supposed to be away to share knowledge and receive both negative and positive feedback.

But in Erie County, at any given time, it is not uncommon to read false and damaging allegations about members of the community. It is even possible to read comments from bloggers identifying themselves using other people's names.

Last week, when the city commission discussed the idea of tacking a $2.50 charge onto sewer and water bills to defray the cost of utilities, bloggers let loose with a series of comments that were pitiful, ignorant, and abusive.

There's nothing wrong with expressing dissatisfaction with the idea of paying extra to cover the cost of heating and lighting public buildings. But to suggest newly hired City Manager Matt Kline be sent packing because the topic was even introduced is reprehensible.

Kline is not the first public servant to be attacked in the blog. He certainly won't be the last. Government officials need to have thick skins--it comes with the territory (I know)--but the vitriol and garbage that gets posted in the blog is beyond the pale.

Unfortunately there are even some dim-witted public officials who hide behind handles like "the lion tamer" to express less-than-civilized opinions about other citizens.

What do our kids think when they read this stuff? How about people thinking about running for public office?

You've got to wonder what this kind of behavior does for Erie County's reputation as a place to live and a place to do business.

Economic development experts contend a company will not consider locating in an area where there is political subdivision rivalry. Public officials are encouraged to work together "for the greater good." They are told a company considering relocation will research the area; find out what kind of a place it is; what the benefits to relocation are, and how difficult it will be to start anew in a new location.

Public officials are frequently told prospective companies look to the media as a means for gathering information. It is not uncommon to learn that these companies subscribe to the local newspaper to find out what is what.

Today they don't have to do that. Instant information about the character of this community can be obtained by reading what bloggers have to say. God help us if a company thinking about locating in Erie County spends any time reading the Register blog. Kalamazoo would start looking pretty good.

Those who criticize public officials with, in some instances, potentially libelous comments have themselves become the blight on Erie County that might eventually send the community back into the Dark Ages.

It's time to respond to those whose ignorance and mean spirit are advertised every time they click onto an article posted on the Register's web site. It is time to counter comments from these insidious people with fair arguments, thoughtful observations, and good information.

It is also time for the Register to start taking responsibility for improving the tone and content of its blog.