COLUMBIA, 3/17/10 (Beat Byte) -- Calling the discourse "very ugly, specifically at the Columbia Daily Tribune's website," First Ward Columbia City Councilman Paul Sturtz (center, Missourian photo) blasted the policy of allowing anonymous comments on newspaper websites at Monday night's City Council meeting during the Council and Public comment period that concludes each meeting.
A former journalist for 20 years, Sturtz said that though regulating journalism is "thankfully outside our purview," he wanted his former boss, Tribune publisher Hank Waters, to change a policy that allows readers to post anonymous comments after each online news story.
"I would just urge the Trib to adopt the same policy the Columbia Missourian adopted a year ago, in which people must use real names when they post," Sturtz said.
Recalling his days as a Trib reporter, Sturtz said he "started corresponding with [Tribune city editor] Andy Waters" on the policy of allowing anonymous comments, calling it counter to good journalism. "We very rarely used anonymous sources," Sturtz explained. "But that's all been thrown out the window with the Tribune's website, where ugly accusation after ugly accusation has really debased our town's atmosphere."
Most recently, anonymous Trib types have turned Third Ward Councilman and candidate Karl Skala into a maniac with no redeemable qualities; and Fourth Ward Council candidate Tracy Greever-Rice, who got a spanking for requesting that her profile be removed from the comment section earlier this month, is looking like a genius for having fled before the Crazies took over.
In response to the catastrophic civility breakdown, several well-regarded Trib posters staged a walk out earlier this week.
"I've defended anonymity as a safety issue, but I've never been comfortable with the drive-by mentality that is so easy to assume," wrote FatDaddy under a March 14 article. "The FatDaddy therefore, is heading off into other pursuits."
"Kudos to FatDaddy and his fellow departers," wrote Tirebiter. "I am likewise tempted to bail from these oft-poisonous (yet curiously addictive) forums."
Last year, a local citizen's group started Citizens Against Comments at the Columbia Daily Tribune in response to the issue.