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CBS reporter's attack draws some offensive comments

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 latimes.com, 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

 

 
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Comments (27)

As far as why so many comments about Lara Logan being sexually assaulted have been rude and/or inappropriate, the truth of the matter (and it may be an ugly truth but it is the truth, just the same) is that many people, if not most people, in this country (America) just don't see sexual assualt or rape as that big of a deal. That is the truth of the matter.

LoL!!!! Since when do reporters take into account being " sensitive" to a victim?

Oh that's right, when it involves another reporter.

I worked and lived in Libya several decades ago when I was in my twenties.
I came from London where there were miniskirts etc in vogue at the time.
I had to change my dress code and take note of my new environment.
As a consequence, I was always treated with respect.
Whilst I am not putting blame on the journalist, I would say that it is important to be aware of cultural differences and to dress and comport oneself in light of those differences. I did know of one person who was raped in her apartment by a security policeman. He came to visit me also but I had a male friend in my apartment " just in case"
As they say "When in Rome" Always take precautions.

Sadly, almost any opportunity for comments degrades into one of two classes: 1) Those who want to shock and 'bait' the community with angry vulgarities, or 2) Habitual 'posters' who know/engage one another in detailed arguments, often totally off-topic but relevant to the debate partners. The opportunity to respond to issues seems to bring out the worst in us--people do not self-censor the way they might if they were identified, or if they were forced to comment without namecalling/vulgarities. It almost seems that many 'respondants' are people who truly have no voice and so resort to insult, stereotyping, and argueing to be heard.

Lara Logan’s reports and insights on both Egypt and Afghanistan were
elucidating and so honest in assessment that I actually saw a very young
"Helen Thomas" in her fierce spirit! Bravo!
Now I can only hope pray that she will recover from whatever injuries she may have sustained. Good luck to her.

LAT Editors: We tolerate frequent and vicious anti-white, anti-Palin, anti-birther, anti-religious, anti-Tea Party attacks from your commenters. Others should be strong enough to tolerate "racist, sexist, homophobic, or other offensive terminology" including anti-Mulsim comments. If not they should seek counseling, not censorship.

Backhanded congrats to the Lunatic Right for this, their crowning achievement in cruelty.

The cruel streak has become so prominent, the sanctimony level so impregnable (and based on nothing, oddly enough, unless you wanna count 8 consecutive years of misery, 2000-2008), that unless they are directly responsible for an event, it has no validity. They're concerned with the President taking credit for the Egypt uprising, for instance, when Back In The Day your Goldwater conservatives would've simply been celebrating the overthrow of a despot, promotion of democracy, etc. Today's nut jobs would actually prefer to keep a dictator in power because he's been an ally, and of course the requisite shrill shrew would step forward to call for more jailings of more journalists (I assume Ann Coulter approves of sustained beatings and sexual assaults too). There's no humanity to any of this ... only the desire to be predictable.

When people behave in this manner, preferring pharoahs over freedom, hailing the beating of any woman, angrily streaming to the polls because we're unemployed and then voting for the people who'll cut off unemployment benefits ... it's a good sign that your President is black. They still can't get over the fact that they lost to a black guy. It's the only reason I can come up with for their sick, sad outlook on life.

When news organizations opened up their news stories to public comments, the comments usually show an ugly side to the human condition. Usually the comments are irrelevant or mean spirited. When we blame things like this on a "Muslim society" we ignore looking at own problems with sexual assault and male violence towards women. Plus we live in a voyeuristic society. It's not the fault of the news articles but the stories don't lead to more empathy on the part of the public. In regards to, "Whilst I am not putting blame on the journalist, I would say that it is important to be aware of cultural differences and to dress and comport oneself in light of those differences", you're still assigning blame to the victim. I would say that rationalizing sexual assault usually does lead to blaming the victim. It's a hatred filled act and you can't say it was the victim's fault.
~~a guy in Texas.

Now the President is calling for an explanation for what happened to Lara...let's see, Egypt is in the process of regime change and an American journalist gets beat up and assaulted. Gee, I guess the dogs of war are unpredictable. Lara didn't deserve to be roughed up but she shouldn't be surprised it happened.

@Ann Common: Your post reminds me of the 'arms race': You get a knife and I get a gun...and so on through nuclear weapons. I am no namby-pamby sweet mouth, and am a lifetime NRA member(so I certainly 'feel the pain' when THOSE accusations begin). I agree that many posts degrade the people/topics you mention. I disagree that such behavior--usually hidden behind false names and 'icons'--should become the standard. I think it's better to call out these people when you see their articles or comments, and point out their small-minded accusations. An old saying is 'if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen'...but I regrettably think that we are bypassing the kitchen and jumping into the flaming wood stove. I , for one, would like to return to the kitchen where, despite the heat, there was at least a real dialogue/exchange of ideas.

We still don't know what happened, there was just a vague press release from CBS which led to much speculation and which brought out the feminist front and their typical tirade of generalized male-bashing, which confuses the issue even more. I've always enjoyed Lara Logan's war reporting but at the same time was concerned for her, expecting to hear about her getting killed one day. War reporting is dangerous. This isn't a "gender" issue, it's an issue about the hazards inherent in reporting. For political fronts (such as the feminists) to hijack Lara's ordeal and use it to promote their own disingenuos political agendas is disgusting. Leave her alone, let her recuperate.

The saddest part of ANY moderation is that it smacks of destruction of Freedom of Expression, the corollary to the Freedom of the Press so much raved about by the press. By desing the moderator is from the "media" and, therefore, imports the media bias intot he discussion. IMHO ALL commentary, expecially in response to opinion pieces, should be allowed and completely uncensored, inlcuding language. Hate is a moral thing - different people have different definitions of morality. And today's world is way to PC to even know what "hate speech" is.

So let me say what I want to say.

What is bunch of crap. From the article: "Since April, The Times has had a policy of allowing comments on articles to post live -- that is, without approval by a person." Yet from above after I tried to comment: "Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author."

So which is it? Lies or your own distorted truth?

I bet the gatekeeper for this comment board is Latino.

It's a tricky question, to be sure. Nowadays people think they have a right to express an opinion and everyone and everything without restraint. They think it constitutes freedom of speech, even if it is truly not. Sometimes I question whether every news article should be open to commenting at all. Yes, I realize I'm commenting now, but I've seen some articles that where I felt having an open comment section may be inappropriate and I'd say the Logan situation is one of them. I don't have a problem with screening comments. People need to think before they post, and take responsibility for what they post. ..and if it's an off topic then I have no problem with seeing those excluded from the discussion.

@Bob: What the post says is true -- for articles. This is a blog, and comments on blogs are moderated. I understand that it's confusing (and somewhat crazy) to have two systems, but that's how it is.

@Charles Morris: Not sure how being Latino (or not) would be relevant to this conversation. But no, I'm pretty darned white.

There are no mitigating circumstances for sexual assault. None.

A quick review: Egypt, a Muslim country in the midst of a civil revolution aided and abetted, if not secretly provoked, by America, now the most reviled nation on Earth thanks to their incessant interference in sovereign affairs. An American reporter without an iota of respect for local customs and in flagrant violation of local cultural and/or religious customs, forages into a rabid crowd consumed by anger, frustration, political suppression, and religiously repressed freedoms, long blond hair flowing freely WITH her cameras rolling and expects what? Her actions are of no blame just a sheer lack of common sense if not outright stupidity and defy every single boundary that visitors in foreign countries should, for their own safety, embrace. Has she done so, this would not have happened. And it is unfortunate that so many in this country, with every tool available and opportunity to engage in pointed intelligent conversation are constantly redefining "intellectually challenged", showing their true colors, and eating way too many bananas.

Just finished an American award finalists' book: 'All Men in This Town are Liars'. The (female)author covered wars in Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She writes that she was sexually groped many times in Egypt (although an Afghani warlord was after her at one time) and that one of her female translators was raped in Egypt after being separated from the crew. She describes this as regular behavior in Egypt in relation to female journalists and their staff, and that this has been known about for some time among all journalists ( a regime-based way of scaring female journalists off?). The book was copyrighted 2010. I wonder why networks aren't discussing more about these other incidents and only discussing this one--it's as if they are 'covering' and making it sound as if it's unusual...from the book, I gather it isn't unusual in Egypt, at all.

Your comments policy is at least clear and sensible. The New York Times' policy, on the other hand, is fairly vague, and is seemingly enforced based on their bloggers' whims.

@dee "I gather it isn't unusual in Egypt, at all."

Gosh. I lived in Egypt for a number of years. Sure, I was occasionally verbally harassed, and once got felt up on the subway. Was never raped. Was never beaten. Was never groped save that one time. Was, however, groped at multiple music festivals in the United States. Was groped on the subway in Tokyo more than once. Was sexually harassed on a daily basis by my boss in Oregon.

My advice: focus on highlight and ending sexual violence in the United States. Don't spend time commenting on places that you don't really know (having a friend go there on vacation doesn't count; reading the occasional newspaper article doesn't count; visiting the pyramids for a week 10 years ago doesn't count). Save your outrage for what you really know.

If you are going to remove posts you should leave some summary or indication of why it was removed. The posts may be offensive, but they are also informative of the views out there.

MartinBeckLAT-

Please understand that there are times when I conduct myself accordingly and my posts are never "posted."

I realize that Ms. Logan underwent a terrible experience and I hope she has the courage to share her experience, in the prevention of another reporter being subjected to the same treatment.

I am not here to judge the people who committed the atrocity or to judge Ms. Logan's news reporting. I only hope that this insane moment expresses the dangers and risks that all reporters face in the field and wohat can and should be done to mitigate these risks to other reporters and fellow members of the media.

@Steven M

We recognize that our guidelines break down in some cases and for a variety of technical and human reasons. But if you believe that one of your comments has been unfairly left unpublished, please let us know. You can email me direct at martin.beck@latimes.com.

Either there IS freedom of speech or there isn't...even yelling fire in a crowded theatre is free speech, just be ready to deal with the consequences.

It is unfortunate that you don't move this topic forward to reflect current events. Lara Logan is last weeks news. We took the issue apart on this board and have returned to our corners. Good Luck to Lara, now let's move on or I'll go back to the NY Post.


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