Out of the pool

Another CNY blogger is striking out for the infernal regions. Gear of Zanzibar, an occasional commenter here and the guy behind CNY Snakepit (one of the tentpoles of Mohawk Valley blogging) has decided to move to Austin, Texas. His reasons for doing so stretch across a couple of posts at his blog, and offer some serious food for thought.

One of his frustrations involves racism that goes unchallenged by the local media in the Utica/Rome area. I’m not familiar with the local politician he’s complaining about, but I can understand the frustrations with the way that racist attitudes in the greater community are sometimes left to just fester in stagnant, seemingly inoffensive containment pools — just take a look at the “Breaking News” comments threads on Syracuse.com. There’s a large and shadowy peanut gallery that comes out to play whenever someone is shot, stabbed, arrested or involved in a car accident.

Racism is alive and well in Syracuse — and while a politician might not be able to get away with a racist comment in this larger, marginally more cosmopolitan city (yet), there is still plenty of home on the range for prejudice. It is frustrating to see, and I wonder why the authors of the Breaking News posts don’t ever seem to engage the commenters or even simply make their presence known in the comments (not generally a weakness an oversight among journalists who write for the Post-Standard). Shouldn’t bloggers be commenters too?

Anyhow, it’s sad that it takes a blogger leaving the area to make me post about one of the elephants in Syracuse’s online room. I wish Gear the best of luck in sunny Texas — Austin being the Ithaca of Texas, or so they say. Here’s what they blog about in Austin. I hope Gear won’t lose the bug for blogging, wherever he goes.

8 thoughts on “Out of the pool

  1. joebass123

    i couldn’t agree more. not only does the syracuse.com website look generic and almost unprofessional at times, but everytime something bad happens in the city, you get about 30 (anonymous) people making sarcastic and sometimes racist remarks underneath a breaking news story. though it’s difficult, i try to not take those kinds of responses seriously.

    i wonder if it could be helped by making people login everytime they visit syracuse.com, allowing one name per isp number (that’s probably not likely), showing the number of their posts, how long they’ve been a member, showing a breif history of their recent posts, etc… also, instead of having posts underneath a breaking news story, why not have a whole other section devoted to responses on a separate page or even post a link to the (uhg) message boards.

    by the way, i’ve been visiting your site for about a year or so now and you have an excellent blog.

  2. Ellen

    Thanks for reading!

    I hope I didn’t come off as too critical of Syracuse.com because I know how difficult it is to have a mandate to get something up and running online…

    I’ll bet that the moderators on Syracuse.com are quite busy removing the worst comments that violate community standards, but my thought is: Maybe we don’t need better censorship techniques… Maybe bloggers need to be present in their own comment boards. They don’t have to save the world – just be present. That goes a long way toward making the peanut gallery control its worst impulses.

  3. Brian Cubbison

    You definitely get raw voices that you’re not used to hearing in the proverbial family newspaper.

    I encourage reporters and editors to pay attention to the comments even though it’s easy to be repelled if the first thing you see is a wave of nastiness.

    Sometimes even among the nastiness there are good story ideas or sharp questions that need to be answered. A recent story about the wanna-be gangs of East Syracuse grew out of the comments on one of those crime stories.

    Some of the comments clearly come from anti-urban prejudice. And some are just knuckleheads trolling for a reaction.

    Now there’s a constant back-and-forth so that a crime in the city will draw a certain response, and a crime in the suburbs will draw a nyaah-nyaah in return.

    Other comments come from some tough-love in the Bill Cosby style, from people who are frustrated that well-intentioned things like anti-violence marches never seem to stop the violence.

    Something I find fascinating is the way family and friends of crime victims will come to the comments to express their grief and support, at the same time that family and friends of a suspect will plead for understanding. That’s bound to cause tension.

    Nobody probably wants to see reporters and edtiors get into flamewars with commenters, but you’re right that a reponsible presence does wonders for even the rudest forums.

  4. Taylor Made

    I lived in Austin and hated it. Texas is a hateful and grotesque place filled with obfuscating racists. In turn those folks elect politicos who create some of the most idiotic public policy seen on this planet, for example, how about how K-12 textbooks have been dumbed down since they have to be approved by the Texas School Board or let us never forget that the so-called “No Child Left Behind” was invented in Texas.

    I’m sorry but that locale is a hellish charnel house of the soul.

  5. Ellen

    “Nobody probably wants to see reporters and edtiors get into flamewars with commenters”

    Absolutely… and I would think that if that were to happen, that would mean it’s too late for reporters and editors to elevate the tone. I would think the key is in having the staff maintain a modest presence in the comments from time to time, from the very beginning, and that has the effect of letting people know “this is not a playground.”

    (As for the conversations that take place now… well, I just pray that I or nobody I know gets shot, stabbed, in a car accident or arrested and has to be run through the Breaking News Gauntlet… it all seems rather like a middle school cafeteria to me.)

  6. Mrs. Mecomber

    I would think that in escaping racism, Texas is the last place to go (besides the deep South). Maybe TX politicians keep their mouths shut more than in the East?

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