If you were a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, would you have the stomach to read your own articles online? Why do we ask? Because if the topic has anything to do with schools, gangs, crime, graffiti, public art, or any issue that in any way might possibly have any connection to mainstream Los Angeles issues, I’d see my well-written hard work being used as a platform for ignorant, racist garbage. Take a seemingly straightforward, if discouraging, article about falling test scores in California that was posted this morning. The article is clear and well-written by reporter Teresa Watanabe and includes data from Sandra Poindexter which helps flesh out the various rises and gains made in during the school year in various aspects of education.
Here are a few of the comments the L.A. Times has published on their website:
Go back to any article on the L.A. Times website that touches on issues within the city or state, or involve a non-white suspect of a crime, etc. and you’ll find thousands of comments just like these ones. While racist comments on the internet is by no means limited to our city’s newspaper, it’s hard to imagine what purpose the paper’s publisher thinks these serve and how it benefits them in any way– it certainly doesn’t do the world or our city any favors.
The NY Times and other papers that claim the mantle of journalistic greatness moderate their comments, show readers editor-approved comments by default, and use other methods to ensure that the hard work their reporters do isn’t tainted by racism and ignorance.
Our honest question to the L.A. Times is why do they allow this? Their official policy is that racist comments are not acceptable, but in hundreds of examples we found, this policy is not enforced. Since we haven’t heard from anyone there, we can only guess as to why they don’t enforce their own policy and also explain why that isn’t accurate.
To wit: they think it’s too expensive to moderate comments, which is provably untrue based on what other online publications do; they believe having a comment free-for-all brings in more page views, which might be partially true, but the greater damage is to their brand and to our city can’t be worth it; they just don’t care, which seems unlikely; they like the comments they’re getting and are satisfied with the results, which is hard to believe even when considering the Times’ early history of antipathy towards immigrants.
It would be interesting to hear directly from anyone at the paper in our (moderated) comments below about the policy, the reasons behind it, or how reporters feel about their hard work being used as a global platform to broadcast racist views to millions of people.