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Censorship and journalism?

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2012

I read the post regarding censorship and Mr. Johnson's response (link below). I was surprised at the sudden sense of responsibility toward all(?) the candidates running for public office, where questions of character matter. In the past, this forum was not moderated with any sense of responsibility even toward ordinary private citizens not running for office. In the times I have read this forum over the years, it seems more like selective editing of posts that don't fit the particular narrative or political position of the paper. If you are an unlucky one whose views don't fit that message, you can see even respectful posts deleted. Moreover, if your identity is known, you can expect the moderators to allow people to use this forum to try and run you out of town. Believe it or not, Mr. Johnson, I have donated to support your paper. It's time to think hard again about the power of the press.

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Comments (4)

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Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


Unlike with most other online forums, our staff devotes many hours of time monitoring posts and, when necessary, deleting comments that we believe are disrespectful or discourage a dialogue. Anyone who has followed this forum knows that we have removed posts on both sides of the political spectrum and on both sides of almost every issue. The problem at election time is that anonymous posters can engage in very calculated efforts to harm the reputation of candidates by spreading false or misleading information. When we see that happening, we will step in, regardless of whether it is someone whose candidacy we support or oppose. Try posting something attacking a candidate we have editorially opposed and you will find that comment removed just as fast as if it were made about someone we have supported.

There are plenty of thoughtful ways discussion of local politics and candidates can occur online and intervention by our editors can be avoided. Even a cursory read of most topics shows that to be true.

If you would like to discuss this further, and not anonymously, feel free to contact me directly at or on my direct line at 223-6505.

But please don't use innuendo about our editing practices (which, by the way, is not "censorship"). No one here has any interest in "running you out of town," only to have you engage in real dialogue over real issues.

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Posted by ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm

ducatigirl is a registered user.

Mr Johnson,

I mean no disrespect, but could I trouble you to tell me why the post about e-mails from a Ken Dauber supporter sent to several residents was deleted?

It IS news, and I think the public would like to know how this story ends, who is responsible, how this person got people's e-mail addresses, etc.

Please respond.

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Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


Thanks for the question; I'm happy to explain. We do not permit someone posting on Town Square to publish an email that was sent between two people, or to many people, without the sender consenting or confirming the legitimacy of the email. I think the reasons for this should be obvious. Posters are free to express their own opinions, but they should not be allowed to present someone else's opinions by cutting and pasting an email or excerpts from an email. Imagine how easy it would be for someone to use this method to unfairly disparage another person by completely fabricating an email.

In this particular case, the poster objected to the idea that supporters of a candidate (apparently for Ken Dauber) might cast only one or two votes in the election instead of all three votes. This political strategy, which is commonly referred to as "bullet voting" and is used all the time by a candidate's strongest supporters in multi-candidate races, is a perfectly legitimate topic for discussion. Some people think only voting for one candidate they are passionate about in a tight, multi-candidate race is fine; others apparently think it is undemocratic. If someone wants to have that discussion on Town Square it's fine, as long as an email isn't posted and the discussion is focused on the pros and cons of the voting strategy and not personal or disrespectful.

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Posted by ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

ducatigirl is a registered user.

Thank you for explaining this. I understand why it had to be deleted. I hope someone can tell us the outcome of all this without using the actual e-mail.

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