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."
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.
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