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This news media blog explores the nexus between the press, the public and technology with two missions. One, to engage citizens in an online conversation about the role of the news media in their lives, in the hope that they will use and critique the media more effectively. And secondly to explore how the press can remain relevant, essential and accountable to citizens and communities.

Mike Fancher is Editor at Large of The Seattle Times.

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April 18, 2008 11:30 AM

Technical fouls in the Sonics fan forum

Posted by Mike Fancher

The Seattle Times is more circumspect than most newspapers when it comes to letting readers turn its Internet site into a free-for-all. The most recent example was locking down the Sonics Fan Forum, after name-calling flame wars broke out between fans here and in Oklahoma City.

The Times doesn't allow inflammatory or objectionable comments, comments that are off-topic, personal attacks or obscene language. Some will deride the newspaper's desire to maintain civility, but so be it. They can work out their aggression elsewhere on the Internet, but not in our house.

At the request of readers who want a respectful dialogue, The Times has restored the forum with this request and warning:

But PLEASE, PLEASE try to keep the discussions civil. Do not attack or denigrate other posters - on the other hand, feel free to dispute their comments with your own informed and mature comments.

We understand that this is a stressful time in this team's history, and that passions run hot. But that doesn't mean this is the Wild West, where anything goes. Children read these boards too....

And we'll be operating on a zero tolerance policy. If you're posting solely to agitate people, you're gone. End of story.

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Posted by

11:19 PM, Apr 18, 2008

Nice in theory, but if you are practicing discriminatory journalism, I won't be a part of it.

Go to and post whatever you would like.

We do NOT discriminate.

Posted by

11:20 PM, Apr 18, 2008

you guys don't display comments anyway -

Posted by

11:21 PM, Apr 18, 2008

what a bunch of crap - you guys suck! don't publish comments and ask for moderation!

go join the legislature on vacation!

Posted by tarbird

1:33 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Afraid of Hamilton's Great Beast, eh? Doesn't sound so democratic to me. Rather, you sound like the pervasive Progressive Puritan Seattle is used to telling them what to think, say and how to act.

Posted by Mister Dot

6:49 PM, Apr 20, 2008

It is my firm belief that the Seattle Times knows best!! Promoting the interests of the wealthy elite who run this town has long been the mission of the Times and they have been quite successful at it over these many years. Witness the Mariners stadium that was built despite a loss at the polls. Witness the Seahawks Stadium that was successful at the polls, although barely, with the enthusiastic help of the editorial board at the Times. And witness any demand made for taxpayer welfare for any project by any local millionaire/billionaire. The Times is always there for them.

So, of course, if the Times wants to monitor all comments before posting them I will not call it censorship; or consider the thought that they may be shaping the comments thread by discarding views they do not agree with.

Posted by scottM

9:23 AM, Apr 21, 2008

"that doesn't mean this is the Wild West, where anything goes."

Weatlhy cowboys ride into town pretending to wear white hats and, with the blessing of a robber baron from back east, they stake out an established enterprise. They find a supersonic train holding the gold and hijack it. They assure the onlookers that they mean no harm, yet the locals all watch as they toss away those white hats and don the black ones. The local sheriff, the mayor and a hastily gathered posse are too slow to react. Can you say well-financed heist? Can you say thievery? Can you say monopoly backing? This sure sounds like the Wild West to me where anything goes.

Posted by Sonicspongebob

10:58 AM, Apr 21, 2008

ScottM makes an excellent point. This IS the wild west here. And so be it. That people cannot be civil is not the Time's responsibility to mitigate. Telling people to "play nice" is fine, but censoring comments is, well, censorship. And that ain't a forum. People can choose to ignore those comments meant only to incite. If the Times thinks they can change people's behavior, they are a lot more naive than I thought.

Gee, I just wish the Times could be more stodgy!

Posted by rateater

7:43 AM, Apr 22, 2008

I guess OKC got a two-for-one deal. Along with out team went out first amendment rights.

Posted by Veejax

8:29 AM, Apr 22, 2008

Ummm, excuse me, but this is the Times' message board. They pay for it, they maintain it, they have to be responsible for it.

'That people cannot be civil is not the Time's responsibility to mitigate.'

This isn't about social engineering pal, it's about quality control of the product they sell so they can turn a profit.

You people, as most in this region, are on top of any opportunity to jump on something, anything, to get defensive about so you can vent your sanctimonious B.S. and blame someone else for your lack of intelligence and civility.

Good job Seattle.

Posted by Fanch

8:33 AM, Apr 22, 2008

The Times' decision to moderate forums has nothing to do with the First Amendment, which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It is a limit on government, requiring nothing of the press.
The responsibility of The Times is to exercise its best judgment about what is appropriate civility on its Web site. In doing that, the newspaper tries to respect all of its readers, not just the flaming few.

Posted by NoHope

7:10 PM, Apr 22, 2008

Thank you for upholding a forum for dialog, not just trash-talk. There's plenty of other places for that on the internet.

Posted by poster

10:04 PM, Apr 22, 2008

To Mike Fancher and the rest of the editorial staff at the Times, a sincere "thanks" for a controlled blog.

There are enough idiots in this world, there is no reason to pollute this online forum with their comments and drive off all the reasonable readers.


Posted by Mister Dot

10:41 PM, Apr 22, 2008

At the PI, and many other websites, I can submit a comment and it is immediately posted. If it is offensive it can be flagged by other readers and then dealt with by the website owner. The Times use of a moderator BEFORE the comment is posted gives the impression of censorship, and certainly the opportunity for it. Fancher is right: There are plenty of other places on the web to post one's views. And considering that the Times webpage design is second rate, why should I tolerate this censorship at all?

Posted by bigyaz

8:46 AM, Apr 23, 2008

I applaud the Times for trying to raise the standard of discourse. If you want flame wars, name-calling and bullying (and when you can't win an argument based on facts, profanity) there's no shortage of outlets for that (you can start at,, etc.).

If the Times policy means some of you immature flamers won't be back here, that's just fine with the rest of us.

Posted by Aaron Kempf

11:11 AM, Apr 23, 2008

just because the Seattle Times DOES NOT HAVE THE BALLS TO HELP US TO SAVE THE SONICS-- does that mean that we should _NOT_ use capital letters?

Maybe if the Seattle Times wasn't run by a bunch of tree-huggers than maybe-- just maybe-- we'd be able to get the new arena _DONE_.

I'm sorry-- but the Mariners Stadium is already paid off.. right?

What is the big deal?


Posted by goodgraces

12:52 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Thank you, Seattle Times, for taking the initiative in not letting some people's lack of ability to have a civil conversation take over your forum. It's your house, and you do get to make the rules. Expecting people to adhere to some level of decorum is only inappropriate to those who are unable (or unwilling) to express their views in ways that adhere to generally accepted cultural norms. If you wouldn't say it out loud face-to-face, don't "say" it online.

Posted by Mister Dot

12:54 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Hmmmm,in response to some macho strutting by Mike Fancher, Editor at Large, at The Seattle Times over how they moderate their blog comments, I posted a comment yesterday criticizing the Times for the appearance of censorship in moderating it's blog comments and maintaining a second rate website and, after eighteen hours, my comment has not appeared ; apparently it has been censored.

Posted by Mister Dot

1:45 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Go over to the PI and check out their unmoderated Soundoff section. Reader participation is the 21rst century. The Times can stay in the 19th century and continue letting staff go until there is no one left but Blethen writing anti-death tax editorials.

YOU are not in control any longer. The Times (A pun) have changed.

Censor away Losers!!

Posted by me em

2:10 PM, Apr 23, 2008

Sticks and stones may break some bones,
but flames will never hurt me...nor any of the other readers. Good grief.

This is why we continue to need a two-newspaper town: And why "the other paper's" self-moderated boards are such a lively place. THEY don't censor, unless a) Someone points out a violation of the site's TOS (terms of service), which are clearly and specifically spelled out. A lot more tolerant than "posting solely to agitate people".

Posted by Arie

3:52 PM, Apr 23, 2008

We didn't mean to denigrate folks from Oklahoma City. (and if you're from Oklahoma City, "denigrate" means "put down".)

Posted by scottM

9:35 PM, Apr 23, 2008

The beauty and genius of Schultz's lawsuit--and, yes, I'm willing to frequent Starbucks again--is in its simplicity. Even if it doesn't prevail, it has the potential of exacting much more leverage than the City's lawsuit. The two combined--cross our fingers--could be formidable.

Asking the judge to create a constructive trust is brilliant, yet dicey. Brilliant, because it avoids the financial complications relative to the last two years since the sale. Whether Bennett sold off the team's best assets--Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis--is irrelevant. However, the Storm being sold to another SEATTLE group of owners strengthens Schultz's case of keeping both franchises in SEATTLE, and underscoring Bennett's duplicity relative to his premeditated plan to poach the SuperSonics.

Where this lawsuit is especially potent is in what further dirt it will likely uncover. This is better leverage than the two-year lease provisions because it's such an all-or-nothing proposition. Will Bennett and the NBA want to take that risk of more major embarrassment under OATH, things we can only guess at now.

RE: David Stern.
What will Stern and the league be required to disclose relative to the understandings made with the Bennett group PRIOR to the sale? In all likelihood, it will be revealed that Stern introduced Bennett to Schultz. The question is whether the Schultz effort can pierce beyond the idea presented by Schultz, the NBA and the Bennett Group, prior to the sale, that an outside ownership group was secured because it would have the best chance to extract an arena deal in W.Wash, one that would include a considerable contribution from the public sector.

Imagine how Stern actually felt when the e-mail exchange between Bennett and the "boys" surfaced last week. Fining McClendon $250,000 was essentially a Stern gag-order to the OKCity partners. With this latest disclosure, however, Stern could not keep the manure stains from his own hands. He was forced to go along with the preposterous lie concocted by someone in the OKCity/NBA inner circle, that Clay, as a man possessed, was talking about "Seattle" and not OKCity. This will surely not hold up under any sort of scrutiny.

Finally, there is some similarity in the idea of the "constructive trust" and a divorce case or probate, where certain provisions are concluded after the judgment.

As a practical matter, the more details that are in place outside the parameters of this lawsuit, the better the chances of retaining the Sonics. Specifically, the state legislature MUST move beyond its belated S.O.S. rhetoric and give the City what it needs to extend the taxes for a Key Arena expansion. This is the path of least resistance for an upgraded Arena. Also, concrete financing for a "suitable" facility will pave the way for a viable Seattle ownership group to step forward quietly or publicly. The players in Washington need to set the stage for the team to stay, just as the players in Oklahoma have paved the way for the team to move there. This "competition" is incumbent on OUR region and, failure to move forward on this gives the NBA, the Judge, and the Bennett Group the easy out.

The weakest or dicey part of Schultz's argument is that since he failed to secure a Seattle ownership group prior to this sale, then why should a federal judge be asked to get into the business of consummating the same sale that failed in the private sector. In other words, the judge may ask, assuming the FRAUD is satisfactorily proven, what happens if a NEW deal cannot be arranged through the "Constructive Trust." How does Schultz present this to the Judge as a viable proposition with the minimum entanglement to the Judicial system.

Stern has many cards he can play behind the scenes. The question is whether his hubris or his pragmatism will prevail here. The best hope is that a-behind-the-scenes-assured-deal can be arranged that keeps the NBA in Seattle in some fashion before everybody involved rolls the dice with these judges. It's called a win-win scenario.

Keep the pressure on Howard. Walk the talk, Guv. Wake up, Chopp. Please step up again, Balmer. Don't get in the way, Bennett. Be smart about this, Stern.

Posted by Chris

2:13 PM, Apr 25, 2008

"Do it for the children"... CHEESE AND RICE... what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Is the Times seriously suggesting that the children that read blogs aren't otherwise familiar with the possible seedier side of adult life in so far as it has to do with name calling or cursing?
Good gravy Marie, you cannot possibly be serious. The rest of Mr. Fancher's post is condescending enough but to polish it off with, "Children read these boards too..." was the cherry on the Insult Sundae.
This is one of the bigger issues today that people need to address. People have the right to say whatever they care to, however they care to and we should be loathe to deny that basic principle. Is the Times taking the same approach to other areas and suggesting that people not be too critical of our public leadership? Don't call the president or the governor a bad name or we'll strike it from publication here because it's not nice, it's below the standards we want to uphold, etc.?
Here's an idea, if you don't want certain standards of communication put forth then don't write them yourself. If you read someone's opinion and you disagree with it for whatever reason, deal with it and move along.
It's not like the world is a nice cozy warm, safe place and there aren't people who disagree on issues of all stripes. If anything kids need to be made aware of how the world actually works and how best to operate within its confines. There are jerks, louts, cheats, meanies and so on in every walk of life. Always have been and always will be. The desire to banish them out of a certain corner of the world may seem like a nice gesture in principle but it's really doing a disservice to those little ones the Times is seeking to protect. Shielding people from realities has its place but this, I don't believe, is one of them. Kids shouldn't see the Daniel Pearl video, they shouldn't be exposed to smut online but to say that they shouldn't see in print someone in one city calling another person in another city a bad name... that's just Pollyanna.

Posted by Fanch

8:34 PM, Apr 25, 2008

Thanks for weighing in with such passion and such civility.

Posted by george

3:02 PM, Apr 26, 2008

"Children read these bords too"
You are going out of business because you can't even get adults to read your paper and you honestly think children do?
Give me a break!

Posted by David

3:16 PM, Apr 26, 2008

Civil discussions?
Has anyone read Postmans reply to the Stranger?
And your worried about civil discourse?
Clean your own house first!

Recent entries

Apr 30, 08 - 10:00 PM
-- 30 --

Apr 29, 08 - 02:20 PM
It's time for Press Here to press on

Apr 25, 08 - 03:55 PM
A "welcome ad"? I don't think so.

Apr 18, 08 - 11:30 AM
Technical fouls in the Sonics fan forum

Apr 15, 08 - 04:10 PM
Citizen journalism may be a bitter pill for some







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