Back Story: Go ahead, call me a dinosaur

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Jan. 12, 2012, 9:10 p.m. | Op-ed — by Michael Willard

Michael Willard

Michael Willard writes: The Kyiv post will be cracking down on online commentators who can't be civil. Having written this column for nearly six months, I have grown accustomed to one of the favorite names posted in response to opinions I have proffered: Dinosaur. I much prefer “dinosaur” over “idiot” or “fool,” two other descriptors I benignly endure.

Truth be known – and that is what we seek here – my skin is metaphorically as thick as any reptilian’s, and I rarely take offense at any of the postscripts tacked at the bottom of this column when it appears online. I actually get a kick out of them – the good, the bad and even the ill-informed.

The fact is that I have been around the block a few times, whether in the journalistic, political or business worlds. The tires are not threadbare only because I have had them recapped from time to time by changing careers and keeping things exciting.

It is also true that I savor the occasional praise – a bon-bon to a sweet tooth – and, of course, I find those commentators especially intelligent and insightful (he writes self-servingly). We all like a kind word now and then, for they keep our spirits soaring toward the fluffy clouds.

To object to the brickbats, as one noted writer, Kurt Vonnegut, expressed so wisely, would be like donning armor and saddling up my white steed to charge a chocolate sundae. My protestations really wouldn’t matter, nor am I sure they should.

However, we do have outside writers that offer their wisdom in the Kyiv Post. They do this without pay or other reward. They merely believe – and we do as well – that their commentary is noteworthy and deserves a public airing. We are grateful for their thoughts.

They make our newspaper more complete.

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site.

We try to strike a balance with our editorial columns, though few give us credit for this.

Balance is one of those very subjective terms that always nests snugly in the eye of the beholder.

We are careful to include comments from opposing views, but some probably believe we are about as balanced as a fight card that includes both the Klitschko brothers.

President Viktor Yanukovych perhaps feels this way, though a sitting leader will always get more scrutiny.

Regardless of my open-minded view related to comments about this column, chief editor Brian Bonner has concluded that there needs to be better safeguards to combat the truly obnoxious comments.

I agree with him. The publisher, Dr. Mohammad Zahoor, agrees with him, which makes it fairly unanimous.

Writers, particularly those not on the payroll of this newspaper, should not be held up to ridicule, and it is important that a certain comity exist on our pages. After all, we are not a free-for-all sports board where insults are expected to be hurled like verbal grenades.

Soon the Kyiv Post website will allow readers to post their opinions in one of three ways only: through plug-ins to their Facebook or profiles or, if they don’t use either social media site, through registration by name with the website.

This is not an attempt to censor anybody. This is, however, an attempt to hold people more accountable for their comments. After all, the Kyiv Post can be held to account legally not only for libelous comments in stories that we publish, but also for libelous comments that others – most hiding behind the cloak of anonymity – post to our website.

Our policy is clear and attached to the end of every story: “The Kyiv Post is hosting comments and forums to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues.

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.”

Yet this simple policy has been violated far too often, degrading the website for many readers. Also, monitoring the website simply takes too many hours a week. So the online circus has to end.

Most newspapers have tighter controls over how they handle editorial comments. You can’t go on The New York Times and fling epitaphs that, if they were unleashed between nations, would cause armed forces to go on high alert.

But, back to the dinosaur label that some feel fits me so well.

You, the reader, have a right to know any columnist who visits you every other week. I am, indeed, older than most of you and my opinions are colored by what some call experience and others suggest a form of dementia.

I am not uncomfortable with this range. However, I have been writing news columns since the Board of Trustees at Orlando Junior College suggested strongly I leave school for writing pro-integration editorials for an all-white school newspaper.

In retrospect, this 1960s episode seems quaint, but at the time loomed large in that once quiet southern city, back before Disney World. For a few weeks, I was called both an “idiot” and a “fool.”

Kyiv Post CEO Michael Willard can be reached at
The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively public debate through the Disqus system. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. The Kyiv Post will ban flagrant violators. If you think that a comment or commentator should be banned, please flag the offending material.
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