Monday, November 1, 2010

Devious Censorship at Esteemed Newspaper

The MSMR has just received an email letter which is quite unsettling, but sadly, not surprising at all. It is not necessary to make an entire report, but we will instead publish the letter verbatim, as the author has given us permission to do. Special thanks to that author, "Jackinthebox," for taking the time to bring this to the attention of our readers.

Dear MSMReview:

Something has happened in the past few days that I think may be of some interest to you and your readers. A clear example of censorship on the part of a mainstream and “trusted” publication. Now I understand that in some cases, what is perceived as censorship can really be explained as necessary management of content, in a responsible manner. For example, just because your letter to the editor did not get printed, it is not necessarily deliberate censorship. This event however, is not one of those cases, and completely undermines the integrity and credibility of the publication in question.

Please let me start by introducing myself. I am “Jackinthebox.” an internet personality and avid message-poster across forums, message boards, news outlets, etc. Sometimes my name takes on variations on different forums in order to get through their registration process. For example, at the publication in question here, my member name is “Jaknthebox.” I have been a member there since August of 2009, and a lifelong reader of the print edition.

The publication in question is the Poughkeepsie Journal. A revered publication with a history of more than 220 years, making it the third oldest newspaper in the nation. It could be considered a local paper, but is much more than a backwater “hometown” print, having high readership in the historic Hudson Valley region north of New York City. It is no leap to say that many, many thousands of people read the Poughkeepsie Journal, as their primary source of news. It has been owned by the Gannett Company since 1977.

Because of its prominence, the integrity of such a news source is paramount in a nation built upon principals of liberty and free speech. Even more so in this region rich in history, which was first settled more than a century before the United States even existed. Of course, and in this day and age, any objective reader has to take into account that most stories reported to us are skewed in one way or another, often intentionally. Corporate gain, political bias, even intelligence agency psychological operations have all come to have an oppressive and overbearing influence on the public perception of events. It is one thing though, to report a story with a “slant” as me might expect FOX news, for example, to report from a Right-wing perspective. It is quite another to resort to blatant tactics of deliberate deception and tactics of disinformation. A news source is nothing without integrity.

Which now brings us to the issue at hand. In the time since I activated an account with the Poughkeepsie Journal's online edition, I have been quite active with my commentary. Being a life-long resident of the area, with family roots that go back to the first Dutch settlers who came here in the 1600's, local news stories are of particular interest to me. With an active account, readers may comment on most articles there, and I thoroughly enjoy doing so. Having such an outlet for readers to express their own opinions and perspective on issues related to those stories reported creates vibrant discussion and fosters greater understanding among fellow citizens. It also has the added benefit of “keeping them honest” so to speak, with readers able to critique the elements and veracity of each story.

Rarely though, is there ever much question of the integrity or factual basis of the articles. There have been some irregularities that I, and others have noticed in both print and online editions over the years, but I suppose that a certain amount of this is to be expected. No writer is perfect, and no operation operates flawlessly. Though they should strive to of course. Not all of their stories are original material either, as they share reports from other news sources such as the Associated Press, as most news outlets will do. Therefore, my commentary stayed focused on the issues, rather than getting involved in discussions which called their integrity into question. I also felt a certain sense of loyalty to the paper, and felt it was inappropriate to nitpick or to “attack them in their own house” so to speak. They have chose to personally reward me with a blatant insult which has thoroughly undermined their journalistic integrity and professionalism.

For several days I noticed that no one was checking the “recommend” counter on my comments as readers will do for comments that they enjoy or agree with. Nor was anyone quoting my posts to continue discussion based on what I had said, or to raise counter-points. Perhaps if my ego were larger I would have noticed sooner, but I didn't think much of it for maybe a week or more. That was until last night when I finally learned the truth of the matter. My comments have been removed from each and every article that I have commented on. On occasion they will remove member comments that are inappropriate but will leave a statement in such a comment box, stating that they have done so. “Comment has been removed for violating the terms of service.” Now some might consider that censorship, but I do understand the need to maintain some level of decorum for publicly viewed comments on their pages. My comments have been removed entirely though, as if they had never existed, without notice or explanation. Apparently my latest comments never appeared at all, except to me. But even in older articles where other members did in fact quote me in their own commentary, my original post which was quoted, is gone. I will attach captured screenshots to this letter in order to verify this.

Not only do I take this as a direct and personal insult, but so too should every member I interacted with, and so too should every reader of the Poughkeepsie Journal in the face of such blatantly deceptive censorship, calling into serious question the virtue of their entire operation. At the very lest they have completely disrupted the continuity of the ongoing commentary in many of these stories. I was not notified of any violation of their terms and conditions. I was not asked to modify the conduct of my posting habits in ways which may not have been covered by the T&C. My account remains open, and all of my comments are visible to me when I am logged in. They are not visible to any other members or readers though. My account profile is active when I am logged in, but any other readers will find a notice which states, “This community member's page is currently being reviewed by the editors. Jaknthebox has not made any contributions yet. Check back for updates or leave Jaknthebox a message.”

Clearly, this is censorship on the part of a company who should be doing everything possible to fight against censorship in order to bring information to the public. Moreover, it is being carried out in a highly deceptive and deliberate manner. Sadly, I had expected much more from the Poughkeepsie Journal. I had thought that they were large enough to cover all the current and relevant news, yet small enough to evade some of the more nefarious practices of larger main-stream media outlets who have been undermined by any number of behind-the-scenes groups and agendas.

People need to see that this sort of thing is happening. That this sort of thing is real, not the figment of the over-active imaginations of basement conspiracy-theorists. This is not crime of the century of course, but it is symptomatic of a systematic undermining of truth and fundamental American ideals. It is all too easy to take for granted what is reported as true and factual. All too easy to accept our news sources as the authorities of fact.

It happened to me this time, I'll take my bruises and move on. But I am certainly not alone. What will others do when it is their turn, their spouses turn, their parents turn, to be marginalized and silenced? To be lied to by those we trust? Really what can we do?

I was not sure where or how to air such a grievance. I expect I will make other inquiries into the matter. But in the meantime, I figured that this would be a story of interest for the Mainstream Media Review to take note of. Right up your alley in fact?

Thanks for taking the time to have a read.



Please keep us posted Jack if you get anywhere with this.  

Wikipedia - Poughkeepsie
Wikipedia - Poughkeepsie Journal



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