Your Opinion on Political Comments and Commentaries?

Anonymous commenting has riled some readers.

WHAV does not have a political opinion of its own. A big question of late though is whether it should allow anyone else—in comments or commentaries—to voice a political opinion on the air or online.

This radio station has been attacked by both left- and right-leaning individuals. On the left, readers have said WHAV should prohibit anonymous commenting, saying those who are forced to use real names are less likely to engage in “noxious,” “rude,” “angry” or “hateful” speech, among other terms.

“I won’t be sharing anything you publish until you do away with the anonymous garbage,” said one resident in an email to WHAV. This well-known and unabashedly liberal (or, progressive, if one prefers) person had, over time, cited various examples of rude comments from conservative writers. The resident was largely true to his word and no longer shared WHAV news stories on his personal Facebook page, but did share material from an out-of-town outlet that editorially has taken fervently opposite positions on political topics dear to the reader.

 Jim Hightower.

Jim Hightower.

On the other hand, self-described conservative commenters—particularly on WHAV’s social media pages—have said they will “unlike” or “unfollow” WHAV if it continues to carry nationally syndicated columnist Jim Hightower. Hightower, based in Texas, calls himself a progressive “populist.” Any criticism of President Donald Trump made by Hightower—even if based on undisputed facts such as the size of his inaugural crowds—brings umbrage by this group. Unlike anonymous commenters on WHAV’s own website, these individuals largely use their real names.

Incidentally, Hightower didn’t always speak kindly of the Clintons. In one column for WHAV, he wrote, “But now, Hillary Clinton says she would put Bill in charge of fixing our economy. Hello – he “fixes” our economy the same way a veterinarian fixes your dog.”

Several people have stepped forward and suggested WHAV simply stick with local news and can outside political commentaries.

“There are a lot of people who will be turned off to your local coverage if they see you as just another place for national political rants. People come to WHAV to get away from that,” one person argued.

Here, it gets dicey. Should WHAV avoid covering local newsmakers who make statements about national issues?

WHAV was recently taken to task for simply reporting Haverhill’s Community Action agency is projecting cuts to local household fuel assistance, school head start and other services if the Trump administration’s proposed budget is eventually passed.

Again, the left and right disagree. Several left-leaning speakers note national politics are local, and contrary opinions about proposed federal budget cuts, for example, should be relayed. Right-leaning audience members agree with dumping liberal columnists, but vehemently argue anonymous comments supporting national conservative positions should remain on WHAV’s web pages.

WHAV gave progressive figures such as Hightower a place after readers and listeners complained other local media carry only conservative viewpoints. The radio station calls this a “market balanced” approach. In fact, a well-accepted marketing principle is to offer something different from one’s competitors. Despite this, WHAV recently sought a conservative commentator who would reliably provide, as does Hightower, similarly short-form audio and text at no cost. There were no takers.

The comment section has remained available for general comments, suggestions or alternative views.

Use the comments section below to indicate your preference on the following options.

  • Ban anonymous comments?
  • Ban comments altogether?
  • Allow comments, but make the option available only to paying WHAV members?
  • Ban political commentaries?
  • Ban local news stories when national issues are involved?
  • Keep it the way it is?

32 thoughts on “Your Opinion on Political Comments and Commentaries?

  1. I believe the anonymous comments should be banned. I know I’ve taken great offense to the naysayers that do not appear in public, but hide behind their pseudonyms..This based on personal attacks to me that are not worth the time to explain – if you weren’t there in the first place, forming an opinion based on conjecture being reported as fact is not worthy of posting if you are not going to put your name to the conjecture!

  2. Please keep it local I can find national news elsewhere.

    I refuse to read the Hightower column any longer because of the blatant bias. However his column reflects badly on this news outlet.

    I put my first name only because liberals will relentlessly harass people with differing opinions and I have no time for that. I would be extremely upset if my children were exposed to the ridicule or judgement because of my opinion.

  3. Anonymous comments should never be allowed on any reputable news site. Hiding behind a made up name is developmentally appropriate only for junior high school students, not mature adults. Of course you should report national news that impacts Haverhill. Nothing wrong with Hightower’s show being broadcast over public airwaves. People who don’t want to listen have many other talk radio shows they can turn to on the dial.

  4. I will withdraw my support if WHAV if they cave to pressure from Mayor Taxman trying to stop any and all criticism. Politicians should not control the media.

  5. IMHO, I say keep it as it is. For those who cannot stand what others may have to say, turn the page ! I do not agree with some people here but I would never want to shut them up. Let everyone speak and the little snowlfakes, who’s feelings get hurt, should learn a thing or two about tolerance. Learn to tolerate opinions other than yours. Ignore those that hurt your feelings. Sticks and stones people.

    Oh, and the biggest problem are people taking it out on WHAV. It is a NEWS station and site. They are going to report the news, whether you like what said news is or not. It is NEWS. And WHAV is a business which needs to make a profit and therefore depends on advertising and DONATIONS. How many people who comment here have made donations ? Do you have any idea how valuable this site is for local news ?

    Yes, WHAV should be reporting on local politicians or organizations who take a political stance on an issue. Why not ? They are taking a public stand to get publicity, no ?

    Should some comments be moderated ? At times, yes they need to be. As stated above, “there is no absolute right to free speech on this site” , not sure about that as WHAV is a not-for-profit, not private.

    All in all people, we have a good thing going here. WHAV has uncovered a lot of corruption and does a great service to our area with local news. Stop whining and suck it up buttercup. If you cannot have a civil and respectful discussion, then turn the page. But don’t forget to advertise and / or donate a few bucks to the cause.

    • **Oh, and the biggest problem are people taking it out on WHAV. It is a NEWS station and site. They are going to report the news, whether you like what said news is or not. It is NEWS. **

      Is it news….or opinion.

      Reporting the news is fine…bloviating one’s opinion is not.

    • You, Jack, are the single biggest of non-civil comments. ..”suck it up, buttercup…?” You really think that’s civil discourse? I call it rude and obnoxious. And by the way, I’ve contributed more than a few bucks to WHAV, despite your obnoxious comments.

  6. At the VERY least there needs to be better moderation. Looking back at certain comments over the past few weeks (one subtly hinting that someone should experience sexual assault in Riverside Park, others with a tone of racism) one can only conclude that there needs to be some limit on what is posted on here.

    There is no absolute right to free speech, particularly on a privately-owned comments section. This is a fact of law, not an opinion.

    As for Jack’s comment about WHAV being better than the Tribune: the Tribune did not perform adequate moderation of their comments section and it was quickly taken over by trolls, posters who echoed extreme political sentiments and others who seemed to be operating under certain agendas. Eventually the Tribune was forced to crack down (I would imagine there are legal ramifications to the owner of the comments section depending upon the content of the posts).

    This crackdown is why “Jack” now feels that this comment site is better than the Eagle Tribune’s; he is no longer allowed to post some wildly offensive/extremist material on the ET site. He and other posters who ruined the Eagle Tribune’s comments section (and eventually caused it to be restricted and nearly shut down) are now posting on here.

    My concern would be that a few bad apples will now proceed to turn THIS comments section into the same sort of dumpster fire/laughing stock that the ET comments section turned into.

    (BTW Tim,you can contact the ET about this, I’m sure they will confirm the issues that I cited above).

    At the very least moderation on here is needed, verified accounts would be better, real names would be ideal.

  7. Keep the current commenting section as is.

    Free speech is exactly that, and it’s protected (well not really anymore), even if it is speech people don’t like, even if it’s anonymous. Those folks stating: “Do this or else” are anti-liberty, maybe with a touch of fascism, but would never look in the mirror accepting such. Even worse, and even more likely, use their position or whatever power they think they have, and abuse it in a vindictive manner. Screw them, most of them are spineless, gutless cowards anyway.

    As for “Hightower” columns, I simply do not read them anymore. I think his writings are simply lacking in depth, kind of like the anonymous bomb-throwers on these pages, so I just ignore them too. #ProblemSolved

    We know certain people read these comments, and once upon a time, a local politician got caught posting anonymously under a different name with a different publication. We also know that very same publication caved to political pressure about posting anonymously, and the traffic died. Which was ironic, because the murders that occurred on River Street in Haverhill were ostensibly solved by the online anonymous commentariat that implicated people that were actually there or knew those involved.

    Personally I like the local and regional coverage, less so national because that can be found anywhere. Personal confirmation bias is the only decider of where one chooses to read it.

    I’m sure WHAV is under enormous pressure to change things to benefit the few and from being saved from looking bad. Too bad. That comes from being politically insulated for so long in this city and to a larger degree this one-way state. A bunch of sycophants surrounding themselves with other sycophants, agreeing and assuring with themselves, with the end result being called progress. Which is fine, but now this city and this state are going to face the consequences of such. Unfortunately they will lash out, and as sure as the sun will rise, make everyone else pay for it.

    It’s your publication, your labor, do what YOU think is right, not what anyone else wants you to do.

    • (sigh) It wasn’t “political pressure” that caused the Eagle Tribune to alter their comments section, it was the inundation of trolls, the incivility and the repeated postings of extreme right-wing points of view. The complaints the ET received over the behavior of the posters in their comments section far outweighed any perceived benefits and the belief was that the comments section was starting to negatively affect the reputation of the paper/publishing company itself. A few bad apples ruined the entire thing; yet another example of the tragedy of the commons.

      I have much more insight/insider information than you do regarding this.

      • Capt. you may have more knowledge but I do know the local politicos put pressure on the Tribune. They didn’t like people talking about facts of issues that exposed their little games. Now, tell us where has all their traffic gone ? And how are their subscriptions doing ?

        • The Tribune wants to sell newspapers, and nothing sells more newspapers than political scandal, or a newspaper accusing local politicians of trying to squash stories. If what you are claiming is true it would have been front page news.

          No, the local politicians didn’t like the fact that the ET was allowing anonymous commentators to accuse them of all sorts of vile behavior without the commentators having to be held responsible for what was, a good percentage of the time, slander. Big difference.

          Stop making excuses for your poor behavior. As an attorney once said about you “That’s *** *****, he thinks he can do whatever he wants.”

          • MY poor behavior ? You may have me mixed up with some others who use the same name. Question: Have you ever had inspectors show up at your home after you commented on a story using your real name ? I have. Yes, it happened and it is why I and others do not use our real names.
            Some people in authority don;t like being called out on things. Some, not all, are corrupt and must hide their deeds. But when someone exposes said deeds, they cannot handle it and resort to scare tactics. I have been threatened many times for comments as have some others I know. Sadly, it is the way some people operate.

      • “I have much more insight/insider information than you do regarding this.” –

        Interesting, because my email exchanges with the late Al White, support exactly what I stated above.

        I’ll also concede that privately owned pages are not bastions of free speech in their entirety, but maybe that’s what WHAV is aiming for? Also of note, like many web pages, the overwhelming majority never comment, they are readers/lurkers.

        • Al White occasionally joined the fun in the comments section as some of the right-leaning commentary appealed to him…but he also had bosses, and said bosses were appalled at what he’d allowed to happen on that comments section. The proof is in the pudding: the ET comments sections are MUCH different and much more restricted now.

          There is a balance between moderation and free speech that is achievable with proper moderation.

          It doesn’t matter how many people comment versus lurk if the commentators run roughshod (in fact, the better moderated the more people feel safe to comment).

          As for your earlier remark that the ET comments section helped “solve” the River Street murders: one of the robbers was shot dead and his body was left *at the scene*. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to crack that case (what with the dead perpetrator there and all), and it MOST certainly didn’t take the ET comments section.

          • “The proof is in the pudding: the ET comments sections are MUCH different and much more restricted now.” – Yes. They are DEAD.

  8. I personally haven’t always commented anonymously. When local news outlets first started providing forums to comment about articles I used my real name. When two out of my three kids came home from school one day and told me their teacher’s had mentioned things I commented on in the Eagle Tribune regarding a school issue in a very negative way I realized it was time to become anonymous.

    Besides allowing readers to provide personal opinion commentary, this forum allows readers to provide fact based content to articles which adds tremendous value to the product WHAV delivers. It wouldn’t be the same experience without it.

    Tim, you and your staff are doing a GREAT job….why change it?

    Keep it the same !!!