http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/08/22/talking-points


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - August 22, 2008

Talking Points

Diversity + democracy = a lot of differences

I have a motto that if half the readers aren't ticked off at us, we're not doing our job. We can't please everyone, nor do we want to. The beauty of diversity and democracy is that we can have a difference of opinion.

We recently had a letter to the editor blasting us for reporting on two young women who were abused and have turned their personal pain into a way to help others. But, according to the letter author, it didn't portray Pleasanton in a favorable light. The author was then lambasted by others who believe that a newspaper should indeed report news. A difference of opinion.

Over the past three weeks, we have had requests on Town Square online forums to close threads for various reasons. Then another commenter questioned why forums are closed so soon. A difference of opinion. Local newspapers and forums are a study in contradiction--a social experiment to a certain extent--and fascinating to watch.

One Town Square forum was somewhat intriguing because we had commenters coming to the defense of the subject of the forum, community activist Julie Testa, demanding we shut down the conversation because Testa was being "attacked" by someone who called her "annoying." Testa herself asked that we not close it, writing, "To anyone offended on my behalf thank you. I would not ask for this thread to be closed or cleared. I think the opportunity to share information is too valuable to censor."

Testa is not an elected official, as one post pointed out. However, she is in the public eye, and there by choice. Does this give folks free reign to verbally attack? No. But instead of being offended and becoming defensive, Julie took the opportunity to clarify her role and her positions--including that she prefers to be called "a badger, a watchdog, or a past superintendent used to call me 'the tenacious one.'"

Even after Testa's statement asking for the thread to remain viable and the conversation continue, a commenter posted, "A forum that attacks Julie Testa or anyone (for no good reason) should not be allowed. The PW should delete this."

That's true enough, and we would close it if there was no good reason for the forum--or if there was an "attack" for that matter. "Terri" of the Ruby Hill neighborhood summed up why the forum was left, and I think the reason Testa accepted it. Terri wrote, "There are those who find it annoying when the Weekly publishes actual news, such as murder and child abuse. Most likely these are the same people who find Julie Testa's exposure of, shall we say, uncomfortable facts 'annoying.' Some prefer to think we live in Pleasantville, where elected officials and public servants are always ethical, and nothing evil ever happens. Sorry folks, it ain't so. Julie Testa is a watchdog for the public trust, something sorely needed and often lacking."

This is a perfect example of the way a forum should work--a topic is broached, there is an opportunity to present the opposing side, other information comes to light and a discussion ensues. One mission of the Weekly is to engage the community in meaningful dialog, and we therefore weigh our options and the circumstances before closing a thread. We do have standards and they are posted under "terms of use" whenever anyone posts to a forum; that posts are respectful of others, be truthful, free of profanity, hateful, libelous and obscene language, and not be threatening, abusive or offensive to any individual, group or class of person.

The question remains as to what would have happened if she had contacted us to remove the topic. If the comment was seen as damaging to reputation, threatening or hurtful, not based in any fact, and it didn't spur or continue a conversation, it would have been taken off. This is the reason some forums are closed.

Gina Channell-Allen, a 20-year journalism veteran, is the president of the East Bay division of Embarcadero Publishing Company, president of the Pleasanton Weekly and publisher of the Danville Weekly. Send questions to gallen@pleasantonweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:15 am

I think what rankles people's feathers around here is the seemingly uneven moderation of threads. Take for example the 2 potentially libelous posts from 9 hours ago at Web Link regarding Ramirez-Holmes. I do have to wonder why that hasn't been censored yet since it seems to me to violate the Terms of Use. I assume either PW does not have enough people or time to spend monitoring the forum or the PW doesn't consider it libelous.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:56 am

WOW, I took a look at the web link in Stacey's post. This is trailer trash politics at it's worst. Karl Rove is a saint compared to these people.
Weekly, since you allow anonymous postings like this, are you going to pick up the tab for the damage done to people's reputations when they are personally attacked on your blog?
Pleasanton deserves better than this garbage.


Posted by Edwards, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2008 at 10:11 am


But is it true? We see this type of behavior as a test of character for our leaders.










Posted by Mike, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 22, 2008 at 11:32 am

This is about someone's private life which is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Ms. Ramirez-Holmes is a private citizen, not a public official.
Weekly, it is time to stop this gargage.


Posted by Edwards, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Perhaps, but isn't that the question in this story? The subject in this story is also a private citizen that puts herself in a public position much like Ms. Holmes. If the statement is false then it should be pulled.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Danbury Park
on Aug 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm

(Comment deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


Posted by Harper Valley PTA, a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Aug 22, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Is this the same Angela Holmes that is vice president of the Pleasenton PTA?

It probably should be removed.





Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 22, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Let's take the following posted item:

(Comment deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff) (A quote from expert law website.)

"Most jurisdictions also recognize "per se" defamation, where the allegations are presumed to cause damage to the plaintiff. Typically, the following may consititute defamation per se:

Attacks on a person's professional character or standing;
Allegations that an unmarried person is unchaste;
Allegations that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease;
Allegations that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude; "

(Comment deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)
Now for libel:

"Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper." (Slander is usually verbal, and transitory.)

So, would you agree that Ms Ramirez-Holmes has been libelously defamed?

Of course, in a lawsuit the defendent can claim TRUTH as a defense.

"The most important defense to an action for defamation is "truth", which is an absolute defense to an action for defamation. "

Can poster of the statement prove the statement he/she made in a court of law? I, personally, doubt it. Of course, poster is protected from the nearly complete anonymity of this website.

(In the same thread I found it amusing that a counterfeit "Stacey" claimed to be listing the text messages between Hostermann and Rameriz-Holmes. Another form of libelous defamation? )




Posted by Nate Hawthorne, a resident of Downtown
on Aug 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

I've read that Ms. Ramirez-Holmes often attends city council meetings, wasn't it something scathing like, "she sits in the back row texting Mayor Hosterman and councilperson Cook-Callio......." (both of whom she works for?)
Perhaps we'll all recognize her on TV now-with the large scarlet "A" on her bodice.
Watch out Ms. R-Holmes the Puritans are on patrol!

Really, don't people have something else to talk about?


Posted by Diane, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Aug 23, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Frank,

It the person that posted is the starter wife she would be able to support the accusations and deserve the opportunity to make the facts public. Perhaps there is a custody situation that prohibits her using her name.
When my mother found herself a member of the first wives club, no job, and kids to raise she wanted people to know who the two people were that were responsible.

From a perspective of social responsibility I have no tolerance for "the other woman".


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm

From the perspective of social responsibility I have no respect for people who participate in character assassination, especially when trying to discredit someone's service to our community because one does not agree with her or his position or those with whom she or he associates.


Posted by Edward, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2008 at 10:22 am


Are we still talking about Ramirez-Holmes? How is working as a paid consultant service to our community?

Clearly a majority of our country believe family values are a measure of character for public persons.

Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, Gary Hart, James E. McGreevey, Wilbur Mills, Gary Condit etc. all of this has made this a legitimate topic.



Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2008 at 10:29 am

Unsubstantiated claims on an anonymous blog is NOT evidence of lack of character but making those unsubstantiated claims IS evidence of lack of character. It is character assassination at it worse because the blogger does not have to accept responsibility for the TRUTH of the information.




Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2008 at 10:30 am

or should I say UNTRUTH of the accusation.