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CBS reporter's attack draws some offensive comments

February 16, 2011 |  1:12 pm

News of CBS News reporter Lara Logan’s sexual assault while covering the demonstrations in Egypt drew an immediate response when the story broke Tuesday afternoon.

Fellow journalists spread the news on Twitter with remarks such as "horrible" and "so scary."

But as a writer for Salon noted, there quickly were bloggers and online commenters who blamed Logan for the attack.

Early this morning, NPR published a blog post explaining that many comments on their story about the assault had been removed because they violated NPR's discussion rules. The post went on to state what some of those rules are.

The Times has had a similar experience with its article about Logan. This morning, reader engagement editor Martin Beck posted a note in the discussion section of the Logan story saying that comments would now be moderated:

MartinBeckLAT at 7:30 AM February 16, 2011
Note to readers and commenters: Because of the sensitivity of this issue and repeated inappropriate posts, we will review comments on this article before they are posted. We have also removed comments that violated our terms of service.

Since April, The Times has had a policy of allowing comments on articles to post live -- that is, without approval by a person. As the memo announcing the change explained, comments are "scrubbed against a word filter, which will block an extensive list of vulgarities." Users have been encouraged to police the system by flagging offensive comments with the "Report Abuse" button.

However, on a handful of occasions, editors have decided to moderate the comments on a sensitive article. Other recent articles for which comments were moderated include a December Column One about gay homeless teens and one earlier this month about a Mormon elder's remarks on religious freedom.

Several readers have been put off by the decision. Beck said, "We prefer to allow commenters to have discussions in real time because it makes for better conversation. But if necessary we will step in to calm the waters, and we won't allow hateful comments or personal attacks."

Elsewhere on, an Opinion L.A. post about Logan has drawn its share of offending remarks. "It's not just blame-the-victim/she-should-have-known-better screeds, it's pretty virulent anti-Muslim stuff," said editorial writer Jon Healey, who has been moderating comments on the post.

"Ideally, comment boards are self-policing. When readers submit something outrageous, others call them on it," Healey said. "Sometimes, though, the comment boards just get overwhelmed with stuff that’s demeaning or hateful, and that drives readers with contrary viewpoints away. And sometimes people will post comments that so clearly violate our terms of service that we simply have to take their words down.

"Usually, though, whether something is offensive is a judgment call, which is why I prefer to let readers crack down on those who they think have crossed the line."

As a reminder, the Discussion FAQ, which is posted at the bottom of each article, includes these examples of comments that are inappropriate:

  • Abusive, off-topic or foul language;
  • Racist, sexist, homophobic or other offensive terminology;
  • Solicitations and/or advertising spam;
  • Attacks that celebrate the death, injury or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise.

-- Deirdre Edgar