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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Readers, Stop Having Opinions and Voicing Them Here

Because you are making some School Board candidates upset (and possibly hurting their feelings.)

This is my smile of the day because in the last couple of weeks I have heard from three candidates saying they have been "mischaracterized"  or "assumptions made" by this blog and by you, our readers. 

I can only say to all the candidates - welcome to politics.  

Of course, people have opinions even before we have written a thing.  You may know candidates via some other media source or by reputation.

That our readers want to know more detail about what exactly the candidates have done - in their professional lives, in their education backgrounds, etc. - wouldn't seem to be cause for alarm by candidates.  If so, I'll be interested to see their reactions when they get to the debates.  (It's fine if they want to answer any specific question with vagueness but it's likely to be noticed and noted.)

What's interesting is that when they say we, the blog, got it wrong, we ask what it was we got wrong and offer to print any clarification or retraction.  They aren't interested.  Well, okay then.

I think it is difficult for most candidates or elected officials to hear comments or criticism from an unknown source i.e. anonymous comments.  I can certainly get that but it is the way of the world today. 

But what the candidates in this case fail to understand is that this blog is a free and open forum. 

We do not preview comments. 

We do not censor comments. 

We do not delete comments (unless they break our guidelines which are fairly simple).  You can't say this for LEV or DFER or Stand or nearly any other place that claims it has a "blog."  (Even the Times, to their credit, has uncensored comments.) 

This should be quite an interesting campaign season.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why don't they answer on the blog then? Lots of candidates are now doing AMA's (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. Obama did. Charlie Staadecher did. Candidates have every opportunity to respond to comments.

HP

Jamie said...

Wow. If one's feelings are easily hurt, one should not run for public office. And HP is absolutely correct, if one feels they are being misrepresented somewhere then they should correct it.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. If I were a candidate and saw a misrepresentation, it seems like I'd want to post a comment correcting the error. Sorry to those candidates who want to pretend this blog has no value so they don't post on it. Fact is, it's valuable. Particularly now that the Seattle Times, our mainstream news source, is so very biased in its education agenda.
-Longtime Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

I note that Peters has commented at this blog and at the Times' comment section.

Someone said...

Hmm... well, it takes a pretty thick skin to run for office in today's social media laden world - if you are upset by the rather tame stuff that happens here, you probably aren't cut out for politics - it's just reality these days that people can and will discuss you and your qualifications in public forums. Trying to control the message never really works....haven't we learned that yet??!

Eric B said...

I do agree with you Melissa, but I also sometimes shake my head at the ad hominem comments on some threads, especially where they are addressed to motives. I've been the target of some, and I have a lot easier time with people saying "That bozo Eric supports doing X" than "Eric is doing X because he really wants Y". It's particularly egregious where Y is something like "ethnically cleanse Eckstein".

Anyway, peopl eon the Internet will hate, and will question your motives if you're in any kind of public capacity. All you can do is put your reasons and motives out there. Putting your head in the sand isn't going to help .

Anonymous said...

Do I have to guess?

Mr. White

Anonymous said...

Funny. Just last week, Melissa was in a huff because people were asking those very questions on the blog. How dare anybody question her pet candidate's credentials? How dare they make "assumptions"?

But right. It all works its way around. And, ad hominem attacks against public people, especially people like Gates - really will get you nowhere, especially when presumed intentions are so off base.

-reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nope,Reader, I said that Peters had the info at her website. And Lynne Varner could have read it.

As well, I said that Dale Estey repeatedly cites her work with the Road Map project but has never explained what she did/does and what she has learned from it.

I didn't mention a single person's name in this post. Gates is a hugely public figure who has inserted himself in the role of public education czar. I have no problem calling him out.

Jon said...

I wouldn't worry about it. They are playing the refs. It's a strategy that has worked pretty well on the mainstream press. Not surprising to see them trying it on bloggers too.

Maureen said...


Readers, Stop Having Opinions and Voicing Them Here


But I ..... er..... umph! :(

Just Saying said...

Blogs are notorious for incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information.

Anonymous said...

Welcome School Board Canidates to the BLOG 101. Once you signed on the dotted line as a canidate to run for a public office you also gave something up.

"Higher Burdens for Defamation -- Public Officials and Figures"

Our government places a high priority on the public being allowed to speak their mind about elected officials as well as other public figures. People in the public eye get less protection from defamatory statements and face a higher burden when attempting to win a defamation lawsuit.

When an official is criticized in a false and injurious way for something that relates to their behavior in office, the official must prove all elements associated with normal defamation, and must also show that the statement was made with "actual malice."

"Actual malice" was defined in a Supreme Court case decided in 1964, Hustler v. Falwell. In that case, the court held that certain statements that would otherwise be defamatory were protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court reasoned that the United States society had a "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open."

This meant, according to the Court, that public officials could only win a defamation suit when the statement that was made was not an honest mistake and was in fact published with the actual intent to harm the public figure. According to the Court, actual malice only occurs when the person making the statement knew the statement was not true at the time he made it, or had reckless disregard for whether it was true or not.

For other people that are in the public eye, but not public officials, the defamation laws are also different. These people, such as celebrities and movie stars, must also prove, in most situations, that the defamatory statements were made with actual malice.

Freedom of speech is less meaningful when a statement is made about a private individual because the statement is probably not about a matter of public importance. As noted above, a private person has no need to show that the statement maker acted with actual malice in order to be victorious in their defamation lawsuit.

Rocky

Charlie Mas said...

Melissa and I are frequently blamed for stuff we didn't write that appears in the comments of the blog. It's just part of the deal for us. All we can do is try to correct it as it occurs.

And, sometimes, we overstate things or, caught up in our rhetoric or passion, we say things that we shouldn't. I'm certainly guilty of all kinds of hyperbole.

Part of the effort here is to inform people and to create a forum for discussion, but part of what we're trying to do is encourage people to activism. Most folks take a lot of encouraging before they will become active, as that work often includes making some exaggerations. I've overstated things or described them in highly skewed ways to trigger a response in the reader. Again, that's just part of the package when you're trying to inspire people to action.

I certainly hope that I have not, however, mischaracterized any candidate's position on an issue.

Mr. Blanford has complained that I wrote that he supports TFA. I wrote that he raised a paddle saying "YES" to the question "Do you support TFA?" at the 34th District Democrats endorsement meeting. He confirmed that he did that. I'm not sure how he thinks I mischaracterized his position, but he has chosen to regard this as an unforgiveable attack.

I haven't written much about Ms Dale Estey. Mostly I've written that her biggest negative is her list of supporters. I've also written that she says all of the right things, even when they are things that her supporters oppose.

I have not denounced the Gates Foundation or the Alliance for Education as the debil. I'm less sure about the Broad Foundation.

Of course, I've written a lot here over a long time. I'm pretty sure that a close review of my thousands of entries will reveal instances in which I have done the things that I just claimed never to have done. I'm human. It's part of the deal.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Blogs are notorious for incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information."

So's the Seattle Times' editorial board ( and their blog) so apparently we are in good company.

Charlie's comment made me remember that someone said that there was a lot at Peters' blog that "could be used against her." That was very telling to me.

I would think the same would be said for me if I ever run for office.

The flip side to someone having a blog - that they signed their name to - is that they have some degree of courage to stand up and take a stand AND allow others to sling those arrows.

But just like everything in a person's background who is running for office, it all depends on how you look at it.

Eric B said...

While you don't write the comments in the blog, you do have moderating power over them. At the moment, that is limited to killing anonymous comments. I respect your position that you don't moderate comments for content, but I think that also has an impact on the perceived credibility of the blog. For example, this comment was in the WS principals thread:

"He's [Banda] relatively young, and he's trying to stiff us working stiffs with more kids per class because the people who send their kids to the Lakesides with small classes say class size doesn't matter. He's hired some professional edu-hack from BMGF, he's promoted MG-J's hatchet man Tolley.

I see a LEV-SFC-PFL-CRPE-A4E ... mini foundation for him [Banda], if he can't finagle some U.W. COE cushy spot if Stritkus is still taking up space. Just look "

Square brackets mine. So you have one of the commenters declaring that Banda is just in the supe gig as a stepping stone to a cushy foundation job, with no evidence at all. Does allowing that kind of evidence-free personal attack enhance the credibility of the blog?

I get that moderating for content is a slippery slope and wouldn't necessarily be popular among readers of the blog. However, I think it would go a long way toward reducing the perception that the blog is a bunch of haters. You would probably increase readership with no real loss of content, since I know several people who stopped reading the blog because they saw the comments as relentlessly negative. A no-name-calling rule and a rule requesting evidence when making accusations would make a big difference.

I want to be clear that I'm not talking about contributions from people like Mirmac, who add a substantial amount of excellent information. If someone at the District is doing something wrong, then they deserve to be called out. The difference is that those are backed by evidence.

All that said, it's not my blog, and not my decision. I don't have the time or inclination to do the amount of work you do, and I appreciate the effort you put in.

Melissa Westbrook said...

We do have a no name-calling rule but it can sometimes be hard to maintain (one man's name is another man's description).

Also, we have a number of district staff who read and occasionally comment. They may have an inside view that we don't (see the heartfelt words from Scared and Scarred).

Also, once a reputation is established, fair or not, I don't see how to change it. How would we tell former readers that we are now moderating comments?

I have given pause to deleting some comments such as the one you cited, Eric, because it was so inflamed. But it's all degrees. I mean we can't even use the word BS without some getting offended.

It's a slippery slope.

Patrick said...

Just Saying said...

Blogs are notorious for incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information.


As opposed to the Times, that paragon of journalistic excellence?

I get much more accurate and complete information here. If someone posts something wrong, other people come along and correct it.

Maureen said...

If readers stick with this blog over time, they will know which consistent commenters are more (or less) credible and when a brand new or basically anonymous commenter is just spewing. I appreciate it when posters provide evidence to counter people who are just spewing out their own opinions. I think it's petty and insular of Board candidates to refuse to engage with Mel and Charlie because of comments on this blog. As others have pointed out, the Seattle Times comments are MUCH worse (and generally much less informed) yet the candidates still seem to engage with Linda Shaw and Lynn Varner.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks for that, Patrick, because we do want to get it right but no, we can't be everywhere at all times. That's why I appreciate the sharp people who come here and share what they know/read/research.

And, we aren't afraid to say when we are wrong.

Charlie and I have frequently pointed out real factual issues at the Times and they never print corrections or clarifications. That's when you know they are more interested in an agenda than real journalism (at least at the editorial level).

mirmac1 said...

Well I'm very opinionated, but I also try to provide evidence (public records) why I got so gawd dang cynical. Hopefully, the evidence informs some people. Plus, it serves to counterbalance the happy talk or smear from the Times.

Anonymous said...

someone said that there was a lot at Peters' blog that "could be used against her." That was very telling to me.... I would think the same would be said for me if I ever run for office.


Just curious. What could that observation possibly tell you? Is that news to you? It's exactly why people don't post their names. Yes. Your posts would certainly be used by your opponents (should you decide to run). But, your position has never been as strident. "Billionaire-Boys-Club", and personalized against individuals like Bill Gates, without ever acknowledging any positives in ed reformers. She has a very one sided message, almost religious, which I find this blog generally doesn't have.

Just curious though, what was telling? Or rather, what were did you find telling?

-Wondering

Anonymous said...

Of course Wondering. Let's by all means elect cyphers with absolutely no history, no tracks, no positions on anything worth noting (certainly nothing that's not tightly controlled). Then, when they're in office, they'll let you know what they really think.

Give me Hillary anyday.

NotCitizensUnited

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wondering, I found that comment telling because, to me, it was almost as if someone was quite happy that Sue had a long track record about talking about public education. "Look what we can use against her."

And it's funny that you say that's why people don't sign their names - their words could come back to them and be used against them?

Yes, they could but then again, if no one speaks up, the powers that be win.

You may not like Sue's phrasing - that's fine - but there is no denying that Gates, Broad, Bezos, all of them decided at some point, they were the right people to decide the direction of public education in this country.

I disagree.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will also note that I have complained about what I perceive to be vagueness and platitudes from Dale Estey so yes, I worry about what exactly she would do in office.

I look forward to the debates so we can see what both of them have to say (and hopefully clarify their positions).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Melissa. Your posts are not quite so one-sided, nor as vitriolic and personalized. I think that will definitely come back to bite Sue Peters, if Dale-Estey can figure that out, which isn't at all clear. Notably, the blogging has stopped. Right! Not knowing what people think also has a downside. People might not vote for you, but they also won't vote against you.

Wondering

mirmac1 said...

Not vitriolic and personalized. Hmmm, that must be why Chris Christie and Bloomberg never got elected.

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