California’s Modesto Bee Puts Stop to Blog ‘Mud-Slinging’
The Modesto Bee in Modesto, Calif., has halted unlimited community blogging on the newspaper’s website because it had descended into “a chaotic free-for-all of vitriolic name-calling, finger-pointing and mud-slinging.”
For five and a half years, The Modesto Bee had allowed registered users of www.modbee.com to set up blogs and write about whatever they wanted, with the goal of encouraging vigorous, respectful debate. Now, the newspaper’s The Hive blogging area is limited to staff members.
Members of The Modesto Bee staff wound up spending “an inordinate amount of time policing the site and mediating feuds between users,” according to a message posted on the newspaper’s website.
“Readers have told us how shameful they find the conduct of Hive bloggers, whose boorish behavior has turned away many reasonable people who wanted to take part but feared the onslaught of abuse so common in posts and replies. Even members of The Bee staff cut back on blogging or stayed away because of the vicious behavior,” the message said.
Although the newspaper supports free speech, it doesn’t support character assassinations and personal attacks, according to the message.
The message – posted on The Editor’s Desk, a Modesto Bee blog – said the newspaper hopes to eventually let only selected users to post alongside staff bloggers. In the meantime, the editors pointed out, external bloggers can express their opinions through venues such as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Twitter.
“This decision to limit posting will disappoint the portion of our bloggers who stuck to the guidelines and discussed the issues respectfully,” the editors wrote. “We also know this change of policy will irritate many and inflame more than a few bloggers who used The Hive to advance their gripes and grudges against one another, against public agencies, against government and law enforcement officials, against various religions and beliefs, and so on and so forth.”
The decision has elicited more than 50 comments online. One commenter called it an “epic failure.” Another one accused the newspaper of “wimping out.” And this from another commenter: “They wouldn’t let the people speak and be heard. They didn’t want to hear the other side.”
Yet another critic complained: “Selected bloggers? Eventually? How do you spell boring?”
The Modesto Bee is owned by Sacramento, Calif.-based The McClatchy Co., which has daily and non-daily newspapers across the country. Aside from The Modesto Bee, McClatchy’s newspapers include The Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer.
The Modesto Bee’s daily circulation is about 67,000. Its website averages more than 550,000 unique visitors each month.