CBS News turns off comments on Obama stories

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 Hat Tip: Orcinus

photo by cynicseye

by Brian Montopoli
Today CBSNews.com informed its staff via email that they should no longer enable comments on stories about presidential candidate Barack Obama. The reason for the new policy, according to the email, is that stories about Obama have been attracting too many racist comments.

“It’s very simple,” Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, told me. “We have our Rules of Engagement. They prohibit personal attacks, especially racist attacks. Stories about Obama have been problematic, and we won’t tolerate it.”

CBSNews.com does sometimes delete comments on an individual basis, but Sims said that was not sufficient in the case of Obama stories due to “the volume and the persistence” of the objectionable comments.

There has been a fierce debate about how news outlets should handle reader comments. Washingtonpost.com’s Jim Brady, whose site, like CBSNews.com, does not have the resources to filter comments in advance, told Howard Kurtz that he’d “rather figure out a way to do it better than not to do it at all.”

But Post reporter Darryl Fears told Kurtz that comments should be eliminated if they can’t be pre-screened for offensiveness.

“If you’re an African American and you read about someone being called a porch monkey, that overrides any positive thing that you would read in the comments,” he said.

CBSNews.com has no plans to disable comments on stories about the other presidential candidates, according to Sims. As for comments on Obama stories, he said the site is open to eventually bringing them back.

“We’d like to be able to return to them, and I’m not ruling that out,” said Sims. “But at this point it’s not possible.”

18 thoughts on “CBS News turns off comments on Obama stories

  1. This ALMOST makes me think that the fact Obama has enlisted the Secret Service to guard him MAY be related to his race.

  2. rikyrah

    Why CBS? Why not ABC or NBC?

    I don’t know…I just roll the eyes when I see racist troll comments at places.

  3. Why not leave ’em up there? I am guessing the reason is that this sort of thing would deflate their feel good stories about how “America wants so much to move beyond its racist past”.

  4. Ernesto,

    I feel you on that. However, it is really because of their recent exposure in the Anus in the Morning controversy that caused them to take this action before something else errupts.

  5. rikyrah

    Why not leave ‘em up there? I am guessing the reason is that this sort of thing would deflate their feel good stories about how “America wants so much to move beyond its racist past”.

    Well, considering that Katie & Co. had been reissuing nearly every right-wing smear on Obama by trying to put a new ‘ spin’, all the while saying nothing except for the right-wing lies that had already been disproved…..I’m not seeing the ‘move beyond its racist past’ in their Obama reporting.

  6. Cliff

    The one thing that magnifies this race the most is their unity. They are united under their system of white supremacy, and will fight to defend it on all levels (politics, education, religion, economics, and business). CBS director of news and operations is overwhelmed at the unity of white people sending in racist remarks about our brother, and they only react to unity, not to individualism.

  7. dblhelix

    really because of their recent exposure in the Anus in the Morning controversy that caused them to take this action before something else errupts.

    They put Obama under SS protection because of a specific incident in LA, I believe. Both tBQ & Obama are scheduled to speak to the National Conference of Black Mayors in Baton Rouge. A young White male college student (and graduate of a prep school) was arrested Thurs for plotting to assasinate tBQ.

  8. dblhelix,

    I heard about that poor, misguided boy poisoned by mysogany and right-wing talking points, plotting the assassination of the borg queen. He’ll be lucky if he emerges from prison in his fifties.

  9. I think it detracts. I shy away from reading comments about Black videos on YouTube because there are ignorant people who write the most racist things about any video that has a Black person. The first time I got all angry and posted a response, but thats just draining. It defeats the purpose of comments if people don’t want to read because they are avoiding getting angry, hurt, or offended. Its pretty easy to anonymously leave hateful comments. Most of them are probably closet racists who seem nice on the outside but will spew their racism if they won’t get caught.

  10. “…that caused them to take this action before something else errupts.”

    Maybe the eruption already happened, in the form of the Imus lawsuit. Maybe the CBS lawyers are afraid that if they let the racist remarks remain on the site, the opposing lawyers can argue that the Imus show is no more offensive than the comments section of their website.

  11. Sad, but as much as I hate to say it, I’m not surprised. It’s proof positive that just because people read the news, it doesn’t make them more educated or less prone to ugly racism.

    I hope Obama gets good SS protection. Too many progressive leaders here in America have been murdered under suspicious circumstances.

  12. Denise

    The whole campaign security issue is a reality check moment, for real! I’m glad he’s getting protection, too.

  13. Now, isn’t this interesting.
    As soon as America is reaching the height of political correctness; a new medium (user-driven web pages) emerges to let people be as nasty as they wanna be.

    Can’t shove stuff like this under the rug, can ya? http://youtube.com/watch?v=GmvGO6V-05E

    Through the graces of the anonymous internet, we can now see what everyone REALLY thinks.

    Turning off the internet isn’t an option.
    Hiring a team of staff members to monitor your online commenting is.
    Hiring a tech team to be able track who’s posting the comments and blocking their IP is.
    Having a system in place where a moderator checks the comments before their posted is.
    I’m pretty ashamed at this cop-out by CBS.

  14. I wholeheartedly disagree with CBS’ move.

    First, you are punishing those who want to say good or insightful things about Obama. (Meanwhile perhaps giving an advantage to the other candidates.)

    Second, let the racists wear their hoods and robes. Let society see how pervasive racism is. How can we adequately fix a problem if it is covered up?

  15. The Bigots do come out at night (sung to “Freaks Come out At Night”)

    Damn, are we in the 21st Century or what? And the wingnuts who still want to rehash the Civil War and can’t get over the fact that the South lost, need to secede from the nation.

  16. “Maybe the eruption already happened, in the form of the Imus lawsuit. Maybe the CBS lawyers are afraid that if they let the racist remarks remain on the site, the opposing lawyers can argue that the Imus show is no more offensive than the comments section of their website.”
    Good point Ernesto. If a site leaves the racism up to be exposed to people aren’t they just sitting back and just letting the racism fly by? Then aren’t they then condoning the behaviour by letting the racist remarks come out and stay there? But I see Liberal Journal’s point as well
    “First, you are punishing those who want to say good or insightful things about Obama. (Meanwhile perhaps giving an advantage to the other candidates.)

    Second, let the racists wear their hoods and robes. Let society see how pervasive racism is. How can we adequately fix a problem if it is covered up?”

    It doesn’t seem as though there is a solution that will please everyone. Leaving the comments up has pros and cons and taking the comments down has pros and cons. But if supposedly money rules the world I think CBS did good on protecting their buts from lawsuits by taking the comments down. Their lawyers probably convinced them to do that. If they were immune from lawsuits then maybe they would have kept it up.

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