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On the spot

Posted Thursday, March 13, 2008, at 9:52 PM

When I cover a county government meeting, I'm generally there as an observer, not a participant. Some people don't get the distinction, but it's an important one to me as a journalist.

I get extremely uncomfortable when some public official addresses me directly during such a meeting, even more so if they expect me to answer them in some fashion. Tonight, I had a public official, right in the middle of a meeting, suggest that I do a story about such-and-such. And it wasn't just a suggestion, it was a question; the official expected me to give her an immediate yes-or-no answer right there in front of everybody, in the middle of the meeting. It was actually a good story idea, and we'll probably end up doing something with it, but it was exactly the wrong way to approach me about it.

It was actually the second time this particular official had put me on the spot during the meeting, so I was doubly annoyed.

Anyway, when she asked me about doing the story I deflected the question with a flippant answer (maybe too flippant).

Please, if you're a public official, wait until after the meeting to talk to me. I'm always happy to listen, but I'd rather it be in private conversation.


Comments
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Just give the standard government answer:

"I am very concerned about this issue and am looking personally into a solution. " I think they'll get the hint.

-- Posted by Tim Baker on Thu, Mar 13, 2008, at 10:22 PM

I just wonder if it was any more necessary for her to ask you this question in public, as it was for you to publicize this private matter? Sorda the pot calling the kettle black, perhaps?

-- Posted by nascarfanatic on Thu, Mar 13, 2008, at 10:54 PM

Mr. Carney...

Since you can no longer push the exclamation point to have things that are offensive deleted and noone can e-mail you...I have found ALOT of offensive comments on the "Taser Party" blog that I don't find family oriented or friendly or something I would want anyone to read, unless they were blogging on the Playboy blogs....I had nowhere else to bring this to your attention, so you left me no choice but to do it here...

FOR EXAMPLE:

jkelley,

Wal-Mart already sells a vibrator c**k ring! Are you suprised?

I was when I saw it next to the condoms! Walgreens sells it, too!

If I remember right, it is in a pink box and is a high theft item. I think Kroger keeps theirs in a locked case.

-- Posted by Mary on Sat, Mar 1, 2008, at 10:11 AM

I REALLY DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW THAT...THAT'S BEYOND OFFENSIVE and people have had comments deleted for alot less.

Sorry to hijack your blog.

-- Posted by Disturbia on Thu, Mar 13, 2008, at 11:13 PM
John I. Carney's response:
Why do you say that no one can e-mail me? My e-mail address, jcarney at t-g.com, is easily available on the web site (by clicking "contact us" in the menu bar at the top of the page) or in the print newspaper (on the byline of my stories or on the masthead on page 4 that lists staff members).

I was actually disturbed by that line of discussion as well. The trouble is, our software will let us edit comments left on news stories -- in that case, I can replace offensive terms -- but not blog comments. Blog comments can only be deleted, not edited. (Don't ask me why.) I came very close to deleting the comment you mentioned, but it was part of a legitimate discussion about whether or not such items should be sold in a family store, and I decided to wait and leave it be unless it got any response. You've called attention to it by quoting it here in an unrelated comment thread.

Given my druthers, I would have left the comment stand but edited out some of the more specific terms. But I didn't have that option.

While I do try to monitor language here on the site, I have tried very hard to promote free discussion by not deleting things just because of the position they take.

I should have clarified that "Contact us" is an option at the top of our main page or any of our news pages.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 6:34 AM

Disturbia,

Offensive is in the eye of the beholder. Are you so close-minded that the innocent mention of sexual aids has you clutching your pearls and running for cover? The commentor wasn't writing erotica, they were making a legit point in an open discussion. If you can't handle that, maybe you shouldn't read blogs.

And by the way, I take issue with your assertion that this needs to be a "family oriented or friendly" site. I find more than a few bloggers who espouse opinions that I don't find "family oriented" or "friendly" at all, but it's their right to have those opinions just as it's mine to comment on them.

John,

You are totally right to promote free discussion by NOT deleting comments. You are a journalist, and as such should not tamper with the free exchange of ideas.

-- Posted by cubicalgirl on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 9:00 AM

Maybe from now on when confronted in a meeting openly, just respond by "I'll be happy to discuss that with you after the meeting." Probably won't satisfy a politician but maybe get you off the hook.

-- Posted by ontheoutside on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 9:56 AM

I do try to treat this as a family-friendly site, and that's why I try to police language. I think the affiliation with the newspaper carries certain responsibilities that aren't present in some web-only discussion board or service. It was hard to make that particular discussion family-friendly, cubicalgirl, but in general I try to police language here and what have you.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 10:15 AM

Mr. Carney,

Once again, I apologize for hijacking your blog, I guess I should have looked for the "contact us" option. I am just used to being able to click on the exclamation point. I know that there is no way you can possibly police the entire blog system, you wouldn't have time to do anything but that.

and cubicalgirl,

I am far, VERY far from being close-minded. But those kind of "toys" and nonsense do not belong on this website, someone took a playful blog about a strange party, and turned it into smut.

My daughter likes to come on here and read the blogs about the animals...what if she had saw something about a party and decided to read it and then I have to explain what some of that stuff is. She is old enough to read about animals but not those "rings" and "toys" that you brought up. That is why Mr. Carney says this is Family Friendly. There is a difference in opinions made, even ones we disagree with and someone turning this site X-RATED. I would hate to think that we lost this blogging opportunity because some can't keep their minds out of the gutter.

and Mr. Carney, I enjoy your site very much and visit often. It has brought about great debate, which is needed in this county. So thank you for letting us blog.

-- Posted by Disturbia on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 10:35 AM

Disturbia

I quit commenting and reading that blog when it started going South. I agree that everyone has the right to their own opinion but I don't think that belongs on here either.

-- Posted by Disgusted on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 2:13 PM

John, how many times has someone invited you to attend some gathering as a person and not as a newsman and then spoiled it all by adding, and be sure and bring your camera.

-- Posted by bomelson on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 3:44 PM

Bo I'm not good at taking pictures and usually hand my camera over to someone else. I can see where you might feel like your still working rather than having fun or being invited just to take pictures. I've seen your pictures most of my life and appreciate your talent as I'm sure your friends that invite you as a person do!

-- Posted by Disgusted on Fri, Mar 14, 2008, at 4:17 PM


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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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