Okay, that’s a bit over the top, so let me say this; I don’t really hate Syracuse.com. As a matter of fact, for a local newspaper online I think they do a very credible job of getting the news out to us. What I’ll say is that I don’t like one main thing in particular.

That one thing would be the comments section at the end of every story. There hasn’t been one story where the comments have helped move a single article along. Most of the time it’s trolls, of course, and because they have nothing to do they can take a story like when we were going through the Jenni-Lyn Watson story in this area back in December and make it about themselves instead of a young lady who was murdered. It was hard to believe that some people thought this was funny and something to be mocked.

And Syracuse.com let those comments stay. I doubt that there wasn’t a single person who didn’t put through something saying those comments weren’t abuse or inappropriate, but if so then there’s either something wrong with the rest of us, or with Syracuse.com, or, as I’ve now gotten to do, we just try hard not to go any further once we realize the story is completed.

Of course they’re not alone. Some of the major news sources do the same thing. CNN and MSNBC, two online news sources I regularly check, take comments as well. The idea of anonymity online is a horrible thing when it allows the kind of sniping and inconsiderate banter like what I see here to go on. And it’s not just news; ESPN and Sports Illustrated allow fans to hide behind fake names and write the same kind of filth.

This concept of freedom of speech is skewed to a degree. Freedom of speech is paramount to the Constitution; what’s not paramount is freedom of speech everywhere. Yelling “fire” in a movie theater will get you arrested. Say the word “bomb” at an airport and you’re probably getting banned from flying for awhile.

If these online newspapers are so much for freedom of speech, why don’t they print the bad words people say? Ah, see, they can censor. Why don’t they print the bloodiest of images on their sites? Why don’t they post the names of children who are molested, women who say they’ve been raped and the like? Oh right, we have to protect the victims. What if they’re lying?

To me, there needs to be more accountability and responsibility on the part of Syracuse.com, as well as other news sources. Stop letting people use fake names when making comments. Make them use their real names and put the city where they live as well. What, you mean that’s scary, that they wouldn’t have any privacy? Well, last week CNYCentral.com, and then WSTM news (probably other news sources did the same once the name was out there) decided privacy didn’t matter when they posted the name of the person accused of animal cruelty in Utica.

What, you say that was different because it was a crime? Actually, turns out it wasn’t a crime; it was deplorable, but it wasn’t a real crime. This guy can’t be charged with anything; maybe the laws should be changed but that’s not the point here. If Syracuse.com, CNYCentral.com, and any of the others news sources around the country really want to benefit the community and create a true dialogue, make people reveal their real names and which city they live in.

Will that stifle conversation? Probably. But if what we have now is what you consider true conversation, I’ll say no thanks, and shame on you at the same time.

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