published Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Gerber: Our online comments policy is changing

Free speech is the principle under which newspapers operate. As such, the journalists of the Times Free Press have wrestled with how — or whether — to regulate reader comments to our online stories.

We’ve allowed readers to comment anonymously on any story since February 2008. But starting today, the newspaper is changing its policy. Readers are free to comment anonymously on any works of opinion such as columns, editorials and cartoons. In other words, you can give your opinion when the writer is giving his or her opinion.

Don’t worry, those of you who love—or love to hate—editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett are still free to comment on his works since they express an opinion.

But we are closing off comments on fact-based articles such as news, features or business stories and accounts of sporting events. Our reporters and editors spend an enormous amount of time verifying facts and making sure a story is as accurate as possible. If we don’t get it right, we lose our credibility. We don’t run a single letter to the editor without verifying and publishing the writer’s name. And we have very stringent rules for using unnamed sources in news stories. Yet even with all of this fact-checking, we’ve been allowing anonymous commenters to post whatever they want — regardless of whether it’s factual — to our online stories.

Too often, commenters post statements that simply are not accurate; sometimes they attack the person who is the subject of a story.

In too many cases, the online conversations descend into poisonous exchanges with comments that are cruel, rage-filled, racist or brimming with words you wouldn’t want your mother to hear you utter.

We remove many of those comments, but it’s nearly impossible to police every one and, even if an inappropriate or inaccurate comment is up only for a short time, it can damage the reputation of a person, a business, the newspaper.

It’s easy to launch a personal attack or spit out a bigoted remark when you’re anonymous.

I wonder how many of the anonymous commenters would make the same hateful statements if their real name were attached?

It’s also easy for the newspaper to look the other way and say, “Sure, we own the website, but those are not our opinions. The facts may be wrong, but they’re not our facts.” In other words, we might own the building but don’t blame us if it’s covered in graffiti.

But that’s the easy way out.

We started allowing online comments as a way of providing a public forum for free speech. At first, we got one or two comments per story. We’d get excited if a story received a half-dozen comments.

Now, a high-interest or controversial story can generate plenty of comments. A story about the Christmas Eve shootings outside the Mosaic Arts Venue in downtown Chattanooga drew more than 100, many of which we chose to remove because they crossed the line.

We have a loyal cadre of commenters, many of whom keep the discussion aboveboard and make excellent points. Unfortunately, those level-headed commenters are being penalized because the number of crude, rude and unfair posts is growing and tarnishing the whole forum.

Other newspapers have cut off all comments on their websites or decided that online readers may only comment on their website by registering through Facebook, which gives the name of anyone who posts. We didn’t want to go those routes. However, we still will post some stories on the Times Free Press Facebook page, and readers are welcome to comment there.

You may argue that closing off comments is a bad business decision.

Will we give up some page views when we change our comment policy? Yes.

Do we want to give up page views? Certainly not.

But is it the right thing to do? We believe so.

Let me know what you think.

Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Times Free Press. Reach her at agerber@ or go online to to comment on this column.

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
memphisexile said...

While I decry any restriction of free speech, I feel like the TFP is doing the right thing. The Commercial Appeal here in Memphis (until they went behind a paywall) had unlimited commentary and it pretty much degenerated into a free for all every day with same people spewing hateful comments towards each other regardless of what the story was about. Let's keep it civil people. Happy new year.

January 1, 2012 at 1:40 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Sadly, I think you are making the right decision.

January 1, 2012 at 1:53 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Trying to quit your way to success rarely works.

If you want to become a newspaper again, you will probably end up re-learning the old lesson that the best people in this industry quit several times in their careers. It's sometimes a symptom of constantly striving for excellence in a relentless industry. There's no way to get a rehabilitating vacation; there are often no other publishing houses comparable in the area; the best people often end up quitting in exhaustion and frustration.

If you haven't quit at least twice, you may not be experienced enough to know what you're doing in publishing.

Trying to quit your way out of what's hard in web publishing won't achieve success in the new axe-dulling work of publishing 2.0: comment moderation.

Maybe we should just count this as the first time you quit comment moderation. Copy-editing is a non-stop grind and a thankless job. Ask Chuck why he moved to the press room. It probably wasn't because he was hosed down with excessive praise for all that copy editing he did before. Having to cope with copy editing the comments of the general public will only be harder, not easier.

I don't know why you would think that things will get easier by quitting. Copy-editing the comments of the general public will be _ difficult. It's also part of the main job: getting to the truth.

Papers don't go under because of the paper and the ink. They die because fast one-way communication does not support profitable advertising. There is no supply-side exclusivity.

Almost daily, your reporters do get it wrong. Your staff is working far less than they did 20+ years ago. Your business is practically keeping banker's hours. That press and its production line used to run a minimum of 20 hours a day. The newsroom was constantly staffed with reporters typing. No one wants to hear this whining about how you think your job is hard. It used to be a helluva lot harder.

I don't know which is more stunning, the idea that you're quitting or that you propose to know the difference between fact and opinion.

Your readers will still have those ugly opinions. What'll happen now is that you won't get your eyeballs dirty looking at them. If you were in the fiction business, maybe that'd be a good idea.

Facing reality is a tough business. I recommend you get back into that business sometime soon. It's what publishing is all about.

January 1, 2012 at 4:49 a.m.
wyldmon said...

This is ridiculous. TFP is now playing the role of "parent" to the readers because we need to be policed? I don't need the TFP staff to help me differentiate between fact and I have played for both teams. Fiction can and does have it's place in that at times it can provide a person a chance to give pause and consider the grassy knoll...or as it is here...a cut brake line on a Jeep. This may be about money. You don't get any by me as I don't click on your "banners", so this may be a move by TFP to lose some baggage because it's simply not worth it...and God knows no one would ever subscribe to your online paper as most of it isn't news. Shootings on ump-teenth street isn't news. Sermon topics at local churches isn't news. A woman jumping off the Golden Gate bridge isn't news. But it's your playground and it's my i'm off to where only news is reported and feedback is welcomed.

January 1, 2012 at 7:07 a.m.
jesse said...

we all should have seen this coming!

need to clean up our act and conduct ourselves like thinking adults!

January 1, 2012 at 7:18 a.m.
wyldmon said...

CNN allows comments on stories...I don't see them crying about it. Plus, they print news. Here's some real news you'll find on, a man tried to sneak explosives onto a plane in Dallas! Catch that TFP?

January 1, 2012 at 7:27 a.m.
smadave said...

The free exchange of thoughts and ideas is the foundation of this great nation. Its also what keeps this website interesting. The reporters need to get over themselves and put on their thick skin. This will backfire and you will see your already pathetic subscription rate dwindle even more.

January 1, 2012 at 7:32 a.m.
Momus said...

In too many cases, the online conversations descend into poisonous exchanges with comments that are cruel, rage-filled, racist or brimming with words you wouldn’t want your mother to hear you utter.

I agree with the TFP. Most comments have nothing to do with the article and are just rants posted to hurt, not help. Happy New Years TFP, good call.

January 1, 2012 at 7:54 a.m.
holdout said...

The comments are sometimes way off topic and sometimes personal attacks. Some of them are sarcastic. Some are wrong. Some are just plain silly. There are some I rarely agree with but NONE should be removed altogether. Why not require a click to enter the comments section instead of including it automatically at the bottom? But hey, it's your site and you will do what you want. I just know that I will miss EVERYONE who posted on the comments section.

January 1, 2012 at 8:02 a.m.
MiltCapps said...

As a reporter and publisher I know this is a tough call. Perhaps TFP readers will help shape new TFP forums to continue and broaden debate and dialogue within the bounds or conventions you have established. My hat's off to TFP reporters and editors, whose work I check, daily.

January 1, 2012 at 8:05 a.m.
bergerberg said...

Your paper-- your rules. Cheers to no more wasted man hours policing comments on news articles!

January 1, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.
jesse said...

i don't think they wasted many man hours policing the "comments" !

some of the stuff thats been posted verges on the DERANGED!

like my hero ODDBALL said, we need to "knock it off with all them negative waves,man!"

believe it or not we CAN disagree on here w/out ripping each others heart out!!

January 1, 2012 at 8:38 a.m.
lookinfour said...

I agree and disagree. I might take the news story to be factual and news worthy, but I don't the comments. I know these were anonymous so I did take them with a grain in salt. The comments never changes anything for me in a news story. The new policy says that readers don't have enough intelligence to know the difference.

January 1, 2012 at 8:47 a.m.
Pizzaguy said...

Shutting it down over a few commentors? By that reasoning, wouldn't the gov't be shutting down some public housing complex's in Chattanooga due to a few bad apples causing many problems, instead of getting rid of those bad apples? Congratulations on political correctness winning out. Next up: Comedy! Cause that joke will have offended someone. Sorry "Laughman", you gotta go!

Just make sure on each article you publish, ask the question "Will we lose future advertising revenue over this? If so, don't print it!"

January 1, 2012 at 8:48 a.m.
Astropig said...

Another dumb move that will hasten the irrelevancy of traditional newspapers.The only reason to read the online edition of this paper on most days is to get a feel for the conventional wisdom as expressed by the comments to various stories. Yeah, there are some wing nuts out there,but there are plenty of thoughtful insightful comments posted to balance that out.As one person suggested above, the comments can be hidden and accessed with a click if you people are so worried about your (fading) image.

And for you folks that think that anonymity is so bad, just remember, They know just who you are in North Korea, Russia and other unsavory parts of the world.Anonymous opinions are the only honest ones.More than likely, some politician leaned on someone at the TFP and cut off their "access" and the paper caved.

So here we are.Now that there is no effective local print competition, the TFP wants to mold your opinions and impose its worldview like it did when the local paper was a de facto monopoly. Reporters can impose whatever bias they want to in an article or series, but their interpretations are now treated as infallible and not open to question or discussion. Good luck with that.

Since the TFP had hired a battalion of beginners, interns and inexperienced kids (they work cheap,you know) we will now have the "news" decided by people that not too long ago were holding keggers and bong parties. They will be putty in the hands of professional huckster politicians like Chuck Fleischman or Ron Littlefield because they haven't made their chops or paid their dues. They don't know how to report.The TFP may as well have made clay Bennett the editor because that what the articles will be like.

I'm going to miss the other commenters,even the ones that chewed me a new one most of the time. At least their agenda was right there for the world to see.

January 1, 2012 at 8:53 a.m.
jesse said...

thats an interesting take on this astropig! one i had not thought of! i may need to rethink a little bit! BUT i still think we need to be civil !

January 1, 2012 at 9:08 a.m.
Pizzaguy said...

New TFP Format to save costs and keep it to one page!

Headline- FOOTBALL scores of UT and UTC games! (if in season, as that is most important news to the area) Something bad happened downtown. (no details..print just like this) Something bad happened in Hixson. Other sports scores. Fluff article on new restaurant. Gov't statistics. A/P article (cause the NY Times just used it!) (Local Business)___ is having a good/bad year. (Erlanger, BCBS, Krystal, Unum, ...your pick!) Letter to editor reduced to sentence to editor. 5 longest classified ads!

-Just a little parting humor!

January 1, 2012 at 9:15 a.m.
chioK_V said...

Well, at least we got, the nation and the world got a chance to see just how much racism, bigotry and intolerance still exist in Chattanooga and pretty much all over the nation in 21St century America. That much won't change we can just go back to pretending. After all, out of sight out of mind

January 1, 2012 at 9:32 a.m.
Oz said...

Before placing an ad, business owners should negotiate a lower rate. The TFP is admitting they will have fewer page views with this policy.

January 1, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.
wyldmon said...

I will miss you guys, even Rolando!

January 1, 2012 at 9:35 a.m.
chioK_V said...

wyldmon said... CNN allows comments on stories...I don't see them crying about it

Actually that isn't true. On CNN when posters ban together and complain about a certain they've decided they don't like CNN will withold the poster's comment each time the poster post something, pending the decision of a moderator monitoring the board. That doesn't imply the poster said anything inflammatory, derogatory, or racially insensitive. It just means fellow posters who have become friends, like in a clique, know they have power in numbers. So they complain enmasse limit or deny altogether a poster's comments they've come together to dislike. Posters have even had fellow posters permanently banned from CNN by grouping together and making several complaints agains the poster.

January 1, 2012 at 9:40 a.m.
patriot1 said...

I have been a long time subscriber to the printed edition of The Times / Free policy is also changing.

January 1, 2012 at 9:43 a.m.
Plessiewill said...

Your decision is a mistake. Most of the people who make reasonable comments don't read the abusive ones. Do you think that perhaps your reporters should do a better job of reporting? The comments sometimes show that not enough study was done on a story. An example is the story on the opening of the bridges in the Chickamauga Battlefield. Not one word was mentioned about the controversy over the bridges. The original plan was to close the bridges, but politics won the reopening for the benefit of just a few people. We all had to pay for the repairs. Not one word of this was mentioned. I was told by reliable sources that the comment period was too short. Normal government comment periods are months while this was a few weeks. the article was all fluff with no mention of the controversy. So, sometimes the comments are better reporting than the articles themselves.

January 1, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
Plessiewill said...

By the way, your poll question today is idiotic.

January 1, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.

I'll be honest, there's nothing in the comment section that I've felt is absolutely worth reading, even my own posts.

There are online communities with life, with vibrancy, with a good existence. This is not one of them.

There's just too much acrimony, disdain and outright hatefulness here for it to be worthwhile.

I suppose you want to keep the people viewing pages and all, but if you chose to just drop the whole business, I think you'd be just as well off. Maybe it's because as a paper, too much of your focus is on well, putting out the paper, whereas online forums that are purely online can focus on what concerns them, and present a better interface, and attract more people, which allows something of a community to develop. Not too many, or you'd be like CNN, that is a case of a swirling mob of trolls, they'd be better off without their comments too.)

January 1, 2012 at 10:02 a.m.
chioK_V said...

Although, I'm sure other derogatory, inflammatory, and racists commenter have been made on other storyies, I think the this decision seems to have been made based on the most recent story about the Mosaic Church/Club Fathom incident. The Mosaic/Club Fathom being the icing on the cake. I've found it odd that in most all these disturbances where there's a club or clubs involved that primarily minorities heavily patronize the same officers are always at the scene, and where some good citizens in chattanooga have made multiple complaints. One of the officers in this recent downtown situation was also an officer who appeared efore the Beer Board to complain about another club on Brainerd Rd back in in 2009 in an effort to get that club closed down. Good Brainerd citizens had begun a drive, with the police in that area, to have clubs that primarily catered to Chattanooga's minority population shut down too. coincidence? Looks like it.

January 1, 2012 at 10:05 a.m.
ShaneTalley said...

If you exchange the posters and editards of the paper with the players,Mosaic management and city government, in my mind everyone should have seen this coming (Mosaic Shutdown). Sad to see the TFP cave to indirect goverment(nanny)control. No matter how bad I may have been offened or pissed off at some comments posted, I respected the other person for their convictions or views. I guess now it will be the TFP way or the hwy. Its was fun while it lasted. I will find another paper to read. P.S I hate to think anyone would put strentgh and foundation in facebook stories.

January 1, 2012 at 10:09 a.m.
chioK_V said...

This decision is actually no better than the powers who came together to shutdown Mosaic/Club Fathom and run Tim Reid off. The haters that hate, and racists that are bigots will just no longer be visible to the eye. I can't say that's a good thing, as they'll still hate, and if they have any power and influence at all, they'll use that power and influence against the others they hate. I know it doesn' look good for Chattanooga, trying to promote itself as a tourist attraction, that so much racial hatred and bigotry remains in 21ST century America, but I am also sure TFP decision won't cure the disease either. The hate, intolerance, bigotry will still be there, it will just no longer be in the open for the nation and world to see.

January 1, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

Whenever I want to show someone how backward and racist my hometown is, I open up the TFP and let them read the comments. The whole nation sees the ignorant, bigoted attitudes of this great city and someone is feeling the heat. Advertisers don't want their company name next to these comments. Free Speech ain't free.

January 1, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
crow1033 said...

I agree with your decision. Nasty, hateful comments left anonymously discredit the story. I would prefer however, that you allow comments tied to a Facebook account so that the individual has to take responsibility for their opinions.

January 1, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.
lookinfour said...

Hey chiok, you're posting on the wrong story. This is about comments section changes. You're race based comments and complaints belong over on the Mosaic article. Your welcome in advance.

Crow, I think most people have the intelligence to separate the comments from the news story. And if they can't separate the two, who really cares.

January 1, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

The idea that Facebook comment scripts confirm the identity of posters is not factual.

Anyone with enough brains to lie to their computer can operate a Facebook account with a pseudonym. It is very easy to hack a Facebook account into being whomever you want. It is so easy to hack Facebook that users not only do it every day, but they often do so with little or no training and education in writing computer code.

Facebook actually provides users with directions on how to establish an account; and therefore provides feedback on how to avoid complying with their policies.

Facebook does not have a reasonable capability to confirm anything about its account holders, much less police it. Hacking Facebook is one of the simplest tasks around for anyone who can operate a computer.

Another instance of getting it wrong in an article. You're welcome.

January 1, 2012 at 10:42 a.m.
Salsa said...

How are the usual whiners going to be able to complain about their favorite sports teams now?

January 1, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
champ1 said...

I"d believe that this would be a good and fair approach if the articles of this paper that were supposedly fact based weren't slanted toward the writers sympathies. For instance, Yolanda Putnam obviously handles stories that relate to inner city blacks. Yolanda Putnam is black and her accounts are always slanted in favor of the black "subject" being written about. Yolanda Putnam would probably not be doing this if she were white. Yet her articles would fall under the "fact" column, unchallengeable, purely motivated by a desire to communicate information to TFP readers. I mean, come on! The problem of course, for both her and the TFP is that she and the African-American community are getting killed by the commenters. But I believe that this is as much the fault of her writing slant as it is any latent racism hidden in the mind of their readers. I am African-American as well, and I hate the fact that she defends some of the indefensible positions of the "black" community with her name and picture posted at the bottom of the browser. I hate that their are still so many prominent blacks who are so insecure that they believe we have to defend everything that any other black person does in this city. A life long "hood-rat", drug dealer, prostitute, or government representative that steals from their own people in the name of their own people have nothing to do with me. They have nothing to do with "us" as a people.

But you wouldn't know that if you were reading the TFP. As a white person, you'd think that all black people felt the same way about these subjects. And you'd be right and honest to voice your disagreements in a public form.

What I believe that the commenters really do is make the TFP look in the mirror a lot more than they'd like. And for that I give a hearty "Bravo" to the readers! Somebody has gotta call it like they see it or we'll never keep moving ahead as a city.  The south has an ugly troubled past and it'll take more than new laws and time to make that go away. It'll take honest open discussion. It'll take these types of forms. And most importantly, it will take a lot of humility. And if you ask me, the TFP just showed why they don't have what it takes to keep up with the times. It can't be that people honestly just object to their subtle attempts to present slanted news articles as factual. It can't be that maybe they should try balancing out their reporting before they send them to print, making certain that they don't have a social, political, or movement based leaning in the matter. Oh no, I can't be that they're doing anything wrong. Nope, its these cowardly rednecks hiding behind their monitors causing the real problems. So instead, their people got offended. Their pride got hurt. So they shut it down. Well happy new year Chattanooga, and here's to another step in the wrong direction of this long and storied franchise!
January 1, 2012 at 10:51 a.m.
champ1 said...

than they'd like. And for that I give a hearty "Bravo" to the readers! Somebody has gotta call it like they see it or we'll never keep moving ahead as a city. The south has an ugly troubled past and it'll take more than new laws and time to make that go away. It'll take honest open discussion. It'll take these types of forms. And most importantly, it will take a lot of humility. And if you ask me, the TFP just showed why they don't have what it takes to keep up with the times. It can't be that people honestly just object to their subtle attempts to present slanted news articles as factual. It can't be that maybe they should try balancing out their reporting before they send them to print, making certain that they don't have a social, political, or movement based leaning in the matter. Oh no, I can't be that they're doing anything wrong. Nope, its these cowardly rednecks hiding behind their monitors causing the real problems. So instead, their people got offended. Their pride got hurt. So they shut it down. Well happy new year Chattanooga, and here's to another step in the wrong direction of this long and storied franchise!

January 1, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
shoe_chucker said...

my first reason was Barret's vile right wing drivel, now i have two reasons not to pay for the tfp

January 1, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
librul said...

This move is typical of purveyors of neo-fascist propaganda. Ever try to get past the call screeners of such rodents as Limbaugh? - they will not allow it. The propensity for right wing mouthpieces to become insular, isolating themselves from opposing opinions while blasting their slanted, offensive "news" is exactly what makes them irrelevant. The most inspiring image I can imagine is flames leaping fifty feet into the air above the top floor windows of that monument to half-truth, innuendo and character assassination on 11th street.

January 1, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
maddawg said...

Good call. This fad too will pass. Since commenting on articles began some few years back the hate has grown rapidly. People say the meanest things behind the safety of their screens. I will miss it as it is strangely irresistable to read the comments as stupid as most of them are but still.....Good Call TFP

January 1, 2012 at 11:29 a.m.
auntsam said...

The TFP has made a very wise decision.

January 1, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.
sage1 said...

Anarchy is not a good thing anywhere, even in a simple form as found on an online forum. The depraved nature of man comes out in the absence of authority and repercussions of actions made. This has been proven over and over in history. This forum is a prime example. Comments are often made that would not be made face to face because of the anonymity.

That being said I'll say this: Chattanooga is filled with the same people as the rest of the USA. The ideas presented by some that Chattanooga has more racists and bigots than other cities are comical.

Not long ago, my job took me all over this country and did so for many years. Jacksonville, Dayton, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Atlantic City to name a few....They ALL have the same problems that we have.

Another thing. Racism, Bigotry, whatever you want to call it, is by no means confined to White America. It exists in every race and often spills over into the many religions of the world.

It's in our DNA......

January 1, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Five years ago I looked to the Yahoo Finance message boards as a place for learning and idea exchange. Over the last couple of years that forum degenerated into something so negative that thoughtful posters simply moved on. Shutting it down became the best option.

While the TFP posters haven't degenerated to the same degree, the trend is not good and the low quality volume is on the rise. That's a shame because the healthy exchange of thoughtful ideas adds a lot to most TFP articles and keeps pressure on the TFP staff to get their facts straight.

Of course the best solution would be for the TFP to edit out heavily, sending the message that rants won't make the cut. Unfortunately, that takes man-hours and discretion at a time when all businesses are trying to control costs. The end result is both the TFP and the thoughtful commenters lose-out to the braying hounds of ignorance.

January 1, 2012 at 11:35 a.m.
WHS1970 said...

Now if the TFP would fire Mark Wiedmer,I would be satisfied.

January 1, 2012 at 11:45 a.m.
welllol said...

Wow!!! So they think their readers are not intelligent enough. Gives me more of a reason to cancel my subscritption with them.

January 1, 2012 at 12:07 p.m.
anderson2010 said...

Well, I guess this will be my final comment on this website. I will be switching my home page to CNN or other news related sites. I do not know of any websites that do not allow comments on what is being stated fact or not. This is terrible that TFP made this decision. I have made comments on stories since you started this and I have not made any comments that I would not attach my real name to. I agree with the others, this does not make sense and just boils down to the fact that you either do not want to pay someone to remove the comments or your paper just doesn't promote freedom of speech. I think everyone should refuse to comment to the TFP when asked about witnessing or telling their side of the story. Sorry to say that I think TFP is on its way out the door.

January 1, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.
wyldmon said...

I just called in and cancelled my weekend subscription.

January 1, 2012 at 12:53 p.m.
mudbug said...

" If we don’t get it right, we lose our credibility. " Most newspapers, TFP included have been losing credibility over recent decades. This action will do nothing to help you regain it. Whatever happened to real investigative journalism? Oh went the way of corporate, media consolidation...

January 1, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.
mudbug said...

"bad business decision"...comments most likely ruffled some feathers, thusly prompting this 'business' decision to further restrict 'free speech'...we cannot gauge the results of this decision, yet it seems that again the media is dropping the ball as regards its responsibility to a free and open society.

January 1, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.

Firstly I hate censorship and love freedom of speech. However that speech has to be civil and respectful and pertain to the story. I have myself commented on here this year and had to deal with responding to people who do not have decent communication ethics and in some cases have been hateful concerning the people in the story or even to myself. Therefore policing is neccessary just as stopping anonymity. If you have something important to say then you should have the conviction to stand behind it and be recognised. But please keep the comments section open to the public as there is definitely a need to vent (politely) over articles.

January 1, 2012 at 1:08 p.m.
Lr103 said...

lookinfour said... Hey chiok, you're posting on the wrong story. This is about comments section changes. You're race based comments and complaints belong over on the Mosaic article. Your welcome in advance.

I disagree. It's actually the right response to the right article.

In fact, it was haters like yourself spewing your hate on the Mosaic story and Tim Reid that was a driving force in Ms. Gerber's and the tfp decision. In fact, I know of no article they've writte, negative or otherwise especially about African-Americans and Hispanics, where you and your hate squad didn't use as an opportunity to spew your hatred. And then there was the Muslims. You and your gang really didn't hesitate to go on the attack on those poor souls.

January 1, 2012 at 1:11 p.m.
jdawg72 said...

You know there are some really bad and totally ignorant comments on here, including some of mine. I do believe as racist and bigoted as some of them are coming from folks with varying degrees of racism and pcness, it at least opens a dialogue between people who would otherwise never communicate. Chet123 and all of you other reverse racists, Im really going to miss seeing yall get intellectual beatdowns on a consistant basis. TFP way to make sure your OPINION trumps that of the general public. I will just put my nuggets into a wheel barrow and surf myself onto a different news site where I can voice my opinion.

January 1, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
wyldmon said...

right on jdawg! Go MSU!

January 1, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.
01centare said...

The haters of anyone and everyone who don't look like them were always there. However, what inspired them to crawl from under the rock was the annexation issue. I'll bet the vast majority of the attackers doesn't even live in the core of Chattanooga. They live in the county and came out in droves spewing their hatred against the poor, blacks, hispanics and everyone else who didn't fit their criteria, because they don't want to be annexed into Chattanooga. That fact is the origin of all this open hatred and bigotry.

January 1, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
wyldmon said...

Oh brother...

January 1, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Ms Gerber, a lot of your article objected to "anonymous." Since I use my real name, may I post comments on any story?

Maybe make people who want to post anonymously pay a fee to have a staffer consider whether they have a good reason. (Or just set a posting fee, $10 per year or whatever.)

There's a lot of nasty nonsense posted, but I've seen very few posts whose removal I'd want. (Maybe you deleted most such posts so I never saw them?)

I suppose desperate posters can post whatever they want about something else under an opinion piece. ('Why isn't Mr Bennett mocking XYZ?') So you may have to revisit this.

Maybe divide comments into two tiers, reviewed and unreviewed?

January 1, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.
EaTn said...

A significant East Tennessee paper/web went this route about a year ago (obviously from political or business pressure) and from my observation it has become ignored and second rate because no one is interested in reading just the one-sided views of their staff. The reason TFP has retained it's position is because it has permitted the good, bad and ugly comments. I hope this is not the first step of TFP's route to obsolescence.

January 1, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
GAgirlNcali said...

I grew up in Dalton. I work for the newspaper in San Diego. We changed our commenting policy to require a Facebook login with the purpose of deterring rude comments. From my observation people don't really care how it's posted if they want to say something they say it. TFP will probably see comments for those off limits stories in other stories that allow comments. They will find a way.

January 1, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
prairie_dog said...

This only means you are free to block dissenting comments, and declare your own truth. That's exactly what Nazi Germany did when they made it illegal to listen to foreign radio broadcasts.

You guys might as well move to a "local shopper" format now. Fire the staff and save money while you can. Your days are numbered, because people will inform your advertisers about how we feel regarding your biased coverage.

Have fun playing with your ball alone . . . take it home and enjoy it . . . the rest of us will find something else to use.

Believe it or not, those of us who have the intelligence to act upon good information also have the intelligence to recognize partisanship, racism and propaganda when we see it.

January 1, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

Well, TFP, I understand WHY you are doing this but I DO disagree with the policy.

I agree with several on here who are commenting AND complaning about the TFP reporters stories....

I think the reporters stories ARE biased. I am SO tired of reading about some poor ILLEGAL immigrant (who should be deported) or WHY the white community is blamed (always goes back to slavery)for the way the black youth of today are acting the way they do (parents/grandparents take NO responsibility and don't make them behave) I want to know just WHAT has Tommie Brown or JoAnne Favors actually DONE for their community? And that includes the so-called "black leaders". Just what ARE they doing?

I have learned a lot on here from the anonymous postings. Some have even changed my point of view after reading them...because they include FACTS that was not found in the TFP article. Facts that they can quote from higher, more intelligent or inside sources....and YOU do not always follow up on stories that get big headlines but no substance!

I will miss chet1, fedup, lookinfour, purplelaw, 328kwebsite and others that I can't think of now with the possible exception of rolando...sorry, dude, but I disagree with most all of what you say...but THAT was the beauty of it all.

The TFP just isn't giving us credit for NOT being able to seperate the "good views from the bad"!

And Champ1...whew! You said it all! I TOTALLY agree!

Happy New Year to all!

January 1, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.
PJLance said...

This is a bad move. The interactivity between the reader and the story and the between the readers themselves really opened up possibilities and made the Times Free Press experience viable in the world of social media.

Turning off the comments sections eliminates that interactivity and makes the TFP less competitive in a Web 2.0. This'll hit your revenues too as fewer people may end up going to the website.

I really enjoy having a good newspaper here in the Scenic City and I think its important that we support the TFP...but these kinds of decisions will not do much to stem the tide of increasing irrelevancy of newsprint.

January 1, 2012 at 3:22 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

I must differ about how well the Times Free Press researches facts. First, look at this article from Perla Treviza "Is Obama Muslim? " Even the smallest amount of fact checking would have refuted that story, but the paper went with opinions and thought bubbles. This was not your worst moment as a paper; however, that one goes to when Reverend Strong was brutally murdered and the paper interviewed the defendants on what happened. Honest to Pete, two gangsters with long rap sheets, who are facing the harshest punishment and you all listened and reported this as news. DId it ever occur to TFP the defendants might have every reason in the world to lie? Even criminals were shocked and outraged by these two killing a man of God. What was most egregious is the paper printed their shocking lies as investigative journalism. Please, don't lecture our commenters on misrepresentations. Those two will have their day in court and TFP will look poorer in the eyes of the community for doing a hit job on a beloved African AME Minister.

As for using my own name, I have no problem going on through facebook, I wasn't aware I could log in through FB. I've been outed here long time ago, even as early as 2005, when a story was done about a piece I wrote at the Daily Kos. I like to write letters to the editor, too. Your restrictions are a bit cumbersome (200 words or less and no more that once a month) so I don't bother as much as I would like. It is difficult to explain climate change or global warming in 200 words or less without a lack of substance.

Times Free Press needs to get with the social media trends and let others be part of the conversation. Trying to dominate the conversation will be the demise of the this paper and television.

I subscribe and am a faithful commenter because of Clay Bennett's cartoons. Bennett is brilliant and we are lucky to have him here. His threads get a bit contentious at times, but at the end of the day, everyone is okay and accepting of each other. The commenter above, Andrew Lohr, and I, rarely see eye to eye on issues, but we are still friends and can discuss politics outside of the internet over Chinese food. Clay Bennett was there, too. Just because people have differing opinions does not mean they are not friends. I do think TImes Free Press should ban people and delete comments from those who bully, use ad hominem attacks, racist slurs or intentionally take a thread off topic.

People want their voices to be heard, I wish the paper would reconsider. Journalists can be wrong, even with the best sources and intentions, Judith Miller of the NYT comes to mind on this. During the days of 2002 and 2003, we could have used more dissent within the traditional media.

January 1, 2012 at 3:23 p.m.
PJLance said...

And as for the racist and classist remarks that get get bandied about on the comments sections...I think we as Chattanoogans need to be brave enough to confront the racism and classism that very much exists all throughout our city. We should denounce it and correct it at every turn, but we shouldn't put the lid back on it. Closing the forums would do just that.

January 1, 2012 at 3:33 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Lr103, you must work for the TFP to make that statement. Are you an insider to the newspaper. You stated that my posts are the reason for the changes? Wow. Never knew that I was so powerful around here. Also, please don't put out more misinformation about how I post. I've never once posted a single comment about any Muslim. Not one time. So please get your facts straight. Have a nice day.

January 1, 2012 at 3:46 p.m.
wyldmon said...


January 1, 2012 at 3:53 p.m.
jdawg72 said...

I used to be able to log in through facebook under my real name johnnyhurst, but Ive had to assume the name Im using now because for some reason the other name seems to have been banned after my opinion differed from that of I guess some of the TFP insiders.

January 1, 2012 at 4:34 p.m.
Haiku said...

Having posters post only through a facebook account doesn't guarantee the account holder is legit. All facebook is interested in is assuring the individual isn't underage.

January 1, 2012 at 4:44 p.m.
Haiku said...

Now, for Rev. Tom Reid. I don't care how or where he got his license or degree to call himself "Rev." And I think the nasty racially charged postings on that story may have somewhat solitified TFP decisions to dissallow posting oipnions. Although, there were many other hateful postings too.

But to Reve. Mr. Tim Reid. Just remember everyon Jesus Christ didn't use traditional methods to preach to the masses. In fact, that's what led to his crucifixion. He was basically out of step with the religious leaders of His time, and they felt threatened.

To. Rev. Tim Reid/Mosaic-Club Fathom. I'd like to leave you with a bit of encouragement.

"It's called "Before The Dawn Of Easter"

by helen steiner rice

Before the dawn of Easter

There came Gethsemane

Before the ressurrection

There were hours of agony

For there can be no crown of stars

Without a cross to bare

And there is no salvation

Without faith and love and prayer....

So as we take our needs to GOD

Let us pray as did His son.....

That dark night in Gethsemane

Thy will, not mine, be done.......

Happy New Year! Rev. Tim Reid and thank you for all you at least tried to do. If there's any legal action to be taken against Mr. Reid as someone has threatened him with filing papers to IRS, I and others have decided we will gladly contribute financially to help him fight the any charge. I can also understand why he may have had to rent out or charge for certain performings a the church. He wasn't passing around a collection plate to his poor parishoners and then walking around in sharp skin suits and driving a late model caddilac. Living in mansions with pure golden faucets. Tim Reid is the *real deal and that frighten a lot false prophets in Chattanooga.

January 1, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.
barelysmart said...

I started reading this website simply because I could quickly read the writers opinion of the facts, then move on to the most interesting part of ANY site, the comments. It is the only place to see what others truly think, regardless of any opinion I may disagree with! Please, Please don't take this valuable tool away from us Americans! If you do go to the horrible Facelessbook format, you take away a simple pleasure for many, to satisfy a few who believe that only their opinion matters. We get to learn about racism, religious intolerance, government corruption and abuse of power, and sometimes even how many toilets you have to have in order to keep a boot off of your neck! Please do not appease the silencers of the masses due to fear. If you do decide to tighten the noose of speech, please remove the word "Free" from the name of the company. Otherwise you are starting 2012 with a lie. Free Press. Remember your own moniker. "Free" Press.

January 1, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.
dude_abides said...

Okay guys, I think it's working. They seem a little perturbed, but are basically accepting their lot. I will be sending you my list of posters that need to be excised from this thing of ours. Ixnay on the amscray.

January 1, 2012 at 5:28 p.m.
Plessiewill said...

Well, I have read some of the comments on this article and I have to say I was not aware of any racist remarks being made by posters. I don't read the comments on most of the stories so I had no idea that a few people were being so impolitic and rude. It is a shame that you cannot police the comments the way the New York Times does. There aren't that many comments so it would not be a difficult thing to do. That would be a better idea than eliminating the comments completely.

January 1, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.
rolando said...

Just another form of silence-the-opposition-through-censorship.

The Tennessean did the same thing a number of years back...they are another libtard hotbed these days.

We have had no real problem here with those posters with whom we disagree...we just ignore them for the most part. It is self-correcting after a while and everyone has a chance to provide alternate input.

But, by all means, repeat your no-external-links faux pas of a year or two ago. Someone had better sense than to allow that crap-view idea to continue.

Hopefully, that same "someone" with better sense as to what is and isn't a good decision is still around. Time will tell.

January 1, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
wyldmon said...

Jdawg, I had to do the same thing...from wildman to wyldmon because the man has thin skin. Screw em'. TFP is full of green low waged twits that can't put a story together that's better than the comments that follow it, how sad!

January 1, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.
Astropig said...

@ rolando

"Just another form of silence-the-opposition-through-censorship. "

No, this is NOT censorship. Censorship would be if the government came in and silenced the opposition.This is just a private business doing something stupid.When their readership online drops off and they can't deliver eyeballs, they will go away. By then , Ms. Gerber or whomever made this decision will be long gone,running someone else's paper into the ground. The owners will find that a bell can't be unrung and their audience will have been picked up by someone else. Which begs the question...

Why don't some of you technically minded types start a discussion forum based on the stories in the paper? The audience is already there (you're reading this now aren't you?), all you have to do is let them know that they can mosey over to your little corner of the world and say what the TFP doesn't want to let them say.

January 1, 2012 at 6:06 p.m.
sweetdream20 said...

328kwebsite said it best. The news story is a story of hand picked information given to you, what someone else decides you should know. With articles open to comment it gives depth and personal insight between the lines of the story. Say a story about a house fire in Red Bank is just a house fire in Red Bank. Words on a page. But someone comments and they know the family and what they've gone through. This turnabout is scary in regards to politics and the local government. I've seen lots of political stories here and comments have pointed out issues that were seemingly overlooked but vital overall. I'm not going to jump out on a limb and cry that this is bogus newspaper/political propaganda, but comments allow for correction and adjustments for accuracy. They can help the TFP decide what the readers would like to know about. It is a fast-paced changing world and TFP will be ousted in favor of the ones that do if they can't keep up. It's sad for me because TFP (free press back then) was once part of my ancestor's proud history. So this is like a farewell. I do hate to see it go. But I hate when you make bad decisions. And call all the time.

January 1, 2012 at 6:10 p.m.
Lr103 said...

lookinfour said... Lr103, you must work for the TFP to make that statement. Are you an insider to the newspaper. You stated that my posts are the reason for the changes? Wow. Never knew that I was so powerful around here

No, I don'twork for the TFP. And never ever confuse yourself with being power and being ignorant. You and your fall into the latter category. And I did say you and yours, in the plural sense and generalization terms. I too have shared many of the bigoted comments with friends and family members around the nation and in other countries. Especially those who see America as a beacon of diversity and compassion, are shocked to realize there is still so much bigotry, racism and intolerance. Doubly so when America is trying to show itself as a tolerant nation in having a black man as its first black president.

January 1, 2012 at 6:23 p.m.
Pizzaguy said...
<p> is available!

January 1, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.
sweetdream20 said...

Ok loucoins. Just a quick example of the accuracy. The fire and crimes map is inaccurate. It says markers date back to October. But there was a fire in Harrison at the Varnell Construction Co on Nov 19th that is not marked.

January 1, 2012 at 6:34 p.m.
Echo said...

Behold! The Arbiters of All Things Acceptable are not on the coasts, they are here in the bucolic mountain hamlet between Atlanta and Nashville known as Chattanooga within the building of the Times Free Press. If the editor of this rag considers its readers to be crass, "racist", profane, "enraged", and inaccurate in regards to facts, it could be because your newspaper's level of journalism attracts a comparable readership. Ms. Gerber, you would do best by trying to elevate the journalistic capability of your own staff before you wag your self-righteous finger at we the unwashed masses. Your omnipotent staff of J-School rejects struggle at times to write a coherent story, much less one that has the typical liberal slant. Go ahead Big Sister, sell out. Newspapers are only good for wrapping fish in the electronic age. If you feel your paper will improve as a result of "homogenized and sanitized for you protection" comments, there are other places to obtain information just a click away. Goodbye.

January 1, 2012 at 6:44 p.m.
Lr103 said...

Plessiewill said... I had no idea that a few people were being so impolitic and rude.

Yes, Plessiewill. There have been some pretty rude, derogatory, demeaning and racially charged remarks made, especially about people of color in Chattanooga, the poor, hispanic, and Muslims. People living in public housing etc. TFP has become home to all the haters who feel safe regurgitating their hate behind a screen name. There's ship'em back to Africa crowd, A ship'em back to Mexico crowd, and at least once or twice I believe I saw comments referring to Muslims as sandn---ger and ragheads.

Many of these posters used a good thing, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and proceeded to abuse an opportunity to express ourselves without getting base and ugly. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression are not free. And anything that is abused can be sanctioned or taken away. Many of the racially mean spirited things said on this board about people of a different race, religion and sexual preference brought tears to my friends and my eyes. They were all very sad to read. But then again, it did serve a purpose in that it brought to light a side of our nation we all thought was long gone, and not just well hidden under a rock somewhere awaiting an opportunity to rear its ugly head again.

January 1, 2012 at 6:47 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Did Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp" Chattanooga City Council threaten action (on account of all the people who dislike their actions) similiar to shutting down Mosaic?

January 1, 2012 at 6:50 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Lr103...every other word or comment that comes from all of the posts I've ever read from you has to do with race, racism, racists, bigots, hatred, slavery, and so on. Just look at your posts in this thread alone. This is about the TFP changing their posting policy. You've got to make that into a racial issue. Unbelievable. For you to blame everyone else for a change in the TFP policy is not surprising as you always blame everyone else for any problem. It's never you, your community, or those directly involved. It's always someone else fault.

And again, as I have said other times on here. Those that scream racism the most and the loudest are often the most racist people in this world. You are very loud.

Have a nice New Year.

January 1, 2012 at 7:24 p.m.

I've found that the people who scream the most about those who are concerned about racism being racist are often the more racist ones, but like playing the "Race Card" card themselves since they can use it to discredit others.

But seriously, I think this fruitless discussion is just convincing me more and more than they should just pull the plug on the comment system.

January 1, 2012 at 7:33 p.m.
lookinfour said...

happywithnewbulbs...huh? That's a 3rd grade response. Here's a thought...if you don't like the comments section the easiest thing to do is to not click on the comments section. I solved your problem.

January 1, 2012 at 7:42 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Really, go ahead. The hits on the TFP are either spam or commenters. It seems that after the hard copy bady boomers are gone, TFP is done anyway.

I note with interest Ms. Gerber's self-proclamation of public credibility. The TFP has long been known as the PR arm for local government, or working in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce to spread their message. Our local newspaper is simply a PR arm, and has long abandoned investigative journalism. It all has to be good to be news worthy in the TFP. Meet the editors:

January 1, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.
rolando said...

No, this is NOT censorship.

A rose by any other name, Astro. Censorship is is still controlling/limiting/eliminating the free flow of opposing viewpoints. It was a newspapers job, once upon a time and before major newsprint became owned by a few companies, to present differing opinion and comments on the news. No longer.

Newspapers have a higher calling than government...although one would be hardpressed today to know it.

Form a new forum[or wahtever]? Naw. It is much too much fun to login on a libtard-infested forum [and hard-left newspaper].

Just for fun, login to's forum and make an anti-The Obama comment...just be prepared to figuratively have acid thrown in your face.

January 1, 2012 at 7:51 p.m.
Lr103 said...

lookinfour said... Lr103...every other word or comment that comes from all of the posts I've ever read from you has to do with race, racism, racists, bigots, hatred, slavery, and so on. Just look at your posts in this thread alone. This is about the TFP changing their posting policy. You've got to make that into a racial issue. Unbelievable. For you to blame everyone else for a change in the TFP policy is not surprising as you always blame everyone else for any problem. It's never you, your community, or those directly involved. It's always someone else fault.

And again, as I have said other times on here. Those that scream racism the most and the loudest are often the most racist people in this world. You are very loud.

That's where you're wrong, as usual, lookinfour. There's not an individual around who aren't willing to admit that a major part in shutting down Mosaic/Club Fathom had just as much and more to do with type of clientele Rev. Reed atracted. The crowds and even violence could have been easily controlled. That wasn't the goal. The goal was to shut them down and run them off. Violence being the excuse and not the reason.

Whenever I've directly pointed out racism and bigotry to you and any of fellow posters it was because you were making racially charged comments either directly or indirectly. Whenever there was a story about African-American or Hispanic crime or crime in certain areas of the city the postings from you and your group were off the chart. On the other hand, whenever the crime was committed by a white there were barely any response at all from the likes of you, rolando and a few others. I do believe, like my African-American friend serving in another country suggested, that many of the hate posts were actually coming from fellow African-Americans hating on fellow African-Americans. The rest just wanted to have an excuse to run them out of certain areas of the town.

Sadly many of the young people who move away from Chattanooga are too embarrassed to admit Chattanooga is their hometown.

January 1, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
lookinfour said...

Again...making my point loud and clear...nothing but racism talk and more excuses.

January 1, 2012 at 7:58 p.m.
Lr103 said...

MasterChefLen said... Did Mayor Ron Littlefield and his "rubberstamp" Chattanooga City Council threaten action (on account of all the people who dislike their actions) similiar to shutting down Mosaic?

I could be wrong, mastercheflen, but it seems you were one of the many here screaming the loudest against Club Fathom, Mosaic and Pastor Reed. I think the mayor's hands were tied, and he was forced to act. So many who are now applauding him for shutting the club down were the ones hating on him because he wouldn't. The same for the homeless shelter he had plans for on 11TH street. The only reason things didn't go forward was not because of the mayor, but because others, moving to the city from the suburbs, didn't want to live that close to the homeless. The protested and even threatened the mayor.

January 1, 2012 at 7:59 p.m.
rolando said...

If I recall correctly, Lr, those "moving to the city from the suburbs" were there first. The proposed "homeless shelter" came later using the old Farmer's Market property. If you do a bit of checking, many homeless services agencies opposed the plan as well as City Council members. The TFP has any number of articles on the subject going back to 2008 and earlier.

Can't say as I blame the residents for objecting. That's like living in the 100-yr old family home in the country and having a jetport set up camp 1/2 mile away...with the final approach 1,000 feet from your bedroom.

Or encouraging the Chicago Mob to move in next door to the Crips and Bloods.

And the mayor bought the badly polluted Farmer's Market property for $70K from private owners...who just happened to contribute $2K to his campaign.

January 1, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.
coulter said...

When a friend sent me an email with this story, I was excited to read about the change. You see- I cancelled my newspaper subscription some time ago because of the direction management was heading. It has been painful to see past (and sadly current upper) management allow fact-less comments to tear our town apart. Thank you Alison Gerber for your leadership. Your wisdom in removing the "graffiti from the building" gives me hope that our newspaper will clean up its' act. I challenge you to push for even a higher standard in verifying facts and accurate, honest reporting. Case and point- sometime ago a person who was photographed by CTFP was told "do not smile" for a (in my opinion) completely bogus attempt at an investigative report feature. When this person told me of the experience, as a loyal reader, I felt manipulated. Certainly not honest reporting. An article may include factual statements, but crafted to mislead. Again, I am hopeful things will continue to improve at CTFP and thank you. I will consider a future subscription.

January 1, 2012 at 8:44 p.m.

lookinfour: And calling something a "third grade response" would be what?

Not the height of maturity, that's for sure.

And while not even looking at this might serve some good, there's still the problem of it being around, rotting away at the community. It'd be nice if they could foster something in the way of productive discussion, but I'm not seeing that happen at all, for various reasons, and I just can't say it would be a good investment to try.

Rolando: And go elsewhere, make a Pro-Obama comment, have the same happen to you. Or any number of different things, ranging from whether you like the Yankees, hate Jeff Gordon, or prefer one Batman to another. Newspapers have a higher calling than Government? If so, then how does it help when so many people are willing to get in the gutters for petty matters of no great import?

As for the Jetports, that is something that has happened before, many times. It's why some cities have even gone to the expense of making an artificial island to solve a problem.

Still, I'll at least accept that air travel is somewhat more of a public interest than a sports stadium.

January 1, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
lookinfour said...

happybulbs, I call my third grade response an example of dumbing it down for the intended reader. Depending on the audience, that sometimes has to be done so that a point can be understood.

January 1, 2012 at 9:14 p.m.
Lr103 said...

rolando said... If I recall correctly, Lr, those "moving to the city from the suburbs" were there first. The proposed "homeless shelter" came later using the old Farmer's Market property

That's where you're wrong, rolando. The idea and plan for a larger facility to better serve the homeless was long on the books before the suburbanites started to move to the city. However, and actual homeless facility, The Community Kitchen, had already been there on 11TH Street for decades. There was just a need for a bigger facility to serve, not only food and a temporary place for the homeless to stay, but to also serve their medical, dental issues and mental health and emotional issues too. Since many of the homeless suffer from various forms of mental problems. Many with various forms of mental, emotional and health issues are veterans of the military who fought in past wars and conflicts.

The homeless facility in the form of feeding the homeless, and perhaps a temporary overnight place to stay, has been on 11Th Street since 1986. And in close proximity to 11Th Street since 1982. There were other similar operations in or around the area since the 1970s. People from the suburbs didn't start migrating to that area buying up property and older homes until the mid or latter 1990s.

January 1, 2012 at 9:26 p.m.

lookinfour, and yet your point was?

Not to engage in a discussion, but to express a sentiment that shows exactly how pointless this comment section is.

January 1, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
EagleEye69 said...

Farwell to all, sad to see free speech end, but you know some say we are in the "End Times" anyway so perhaps it won't matter for very long. Hope everyone has a great 2012.

January 1, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Oz said...

The comments were more entertaining than the TFP writers most of the time.

January 1, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.
MTJohn said...

In my opinion, the bill of rights is also a bill of responsibilities. From that perspective, we might respect peoples' right to make uninformed and spiteful remarks. But, if it is irresponsible speech it really isn't free speech. Thus, I think the proposed change is a reasonable response to inappropriate postings. However, it's my second choice. My preference would be to allow considerable freedom in posting responses to articles, etc., but prohibit anonymous posting.

January 1, 2012 at 11:26 p.m.
ctfpfan08 said...

This was a good way to get all of the usual inappropriate commenters on one page. Lol And sadly I agree this needs to be done. It's too bad we can't all use this site as a place for intelligent discussion. I think the Facebook link option is good too, although I'm off Facebook for 5 months and wouldn't go back.

January 1, 2012 at 11:42 p.m.
onetinsoldier said...

What we are suffering here, is freedom from the press. The TFP is pretty useless as a news source. They pander to power in their ineptitude when not doing so out of greed. Walter Hussman, Jr. is nothing more than a corporate raider, a merger king with a formula to dumb down the news by homoginization. You will never learn anything of great import here, from the articles. The comments were at least entertaining.

I just hope they have to pay Clay Bennet by the click.

January 2, 2012 at 2:51 a.m.
Loyaljeeper said...

I would so much rather visit the anyhow.

January 2, 2012 at 4:42 a.m.
knightrider said...

Ok this is going to end up causing the Times Free Press to be slapped up side their head with a BIG FAT lawsuit. Why? Here's the big party pooper for whomever decided to come up with this policy.Our United States Constitution's First Amendment clearly states “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." Now here's the part that's the BIG party pooper for the Times Free Press...since Congress shall make no law,rule or regulation prohibiting the free exercise of Speech,a lowly newspaper can't either. Due to the fact that a newspaper has NO regulatory authority what so ever especially any more so than Congress. All I can really think of that the Times Free Press is allowed to do is to reject comments that violate the exceptions of Freedom of Speech (Libelous,Slanderous comments,threats and obscene comments.)Other than that, it's violation of Civil Rights.And as for their facts, the Times Free Press has the same quality of "facts checkers" that did the report on George H.W. Bush's military records years ago.

January 2, 2012 at 4:58 a.m.
ceeweed said...

It was refreshing to read and participate in this forum...I have a great fondness for the posters I have come to know through our exchange of opinions and ideas...The fondness I speak of extends to all posters, even those who I often disagree with...Allowing the free exchange of opinions, no matter how extreme, also allows for consensus and common ground to be established...Consensus fosters mutual respect and promotes a lot of introspection...Wow!, what a great way to enjoy one of our country's fundamental freedoms!...It may sound corny but, for me, it is like sitting down with my extended family for fellowship and spirited debate. In my real family, our debates tend to stray off subject, sometimes becoming heated, sometimes inane, but always edifying. My craggy uncle, dizzy aunt, slacker nephew, bible thumping cousin, bookish sister all have an important place at the table. What we share in common is our love and respect for each other. What we celebrate is our differences. Much love and respect to all my fellow posters! I will miss all of you!...Sincerely: ceeweed

January 2, 2012 at 7:35 a.m.

knightrider: No, the First Amendment does not work that way. The Supreme Court has already ruled on that subject.

January 2, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
tipper said...

If you look at the comments section of the TFP website, it is easy to see that it has turned into a spleen-venting venue. I have to admit that I have done that, too. I'm not sure that the comment section is of value at all. Most comments really end up preaching to different sections of the choir. Those who have political influence such as elected officials or heads of corporations seldom if ever read what is posted or are even interested. If you want to get to these people, you have to go to where they are. If they are inconvenienced, they are more likely to feel the pinch and act positively or negatively. Also, the TFP site is a commercial venue. It provides news, but the site's goal is to make money and test the use of the Internet as news organizations begin to move away from print. In the long run, if the commment section disappeared altogether, it's not much of a loss. We're not getting anywhere with it anyway.

January 2, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.
jesse said...

what apparently started out w/the idea of a reasoned debate and exchange of ideas degenerated into a screaming , name callin CAT FIGHT! it was fun for the short time i was on here! adios,amigos!!

January 2, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

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...

One problem, TFP is a private business.

January 2, 2012 at 2:59 p.m.
crystalkile said...

So where are locals hanging out online to comment on and read comments on TFP content?

January 2, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
tcrashfx said...

Here ya go, crystalkile.....

January 2, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
rolando said...

Not anywhere, crystalkile, not really. Hard to comment about the TFP news reporting -- such as it is -- without the article to comment on...and they no longer allow it here.

TFP no longer has any comment-able content... I would like to see the Free Press break away from the Chattanooga Times and again become a separate newspaper. [I notice they have changed their name to show all gothic typeface...a slap at the Free Press and its more-modern former Arial-type typeface.

Oh, all Toonboy's fanboys and girls will hang out for a while, telling each other how great the latest drawing is...but don't look for any real discussion that stirs the blood.

Look for a sharp drop in out-of-staters commenting here, too. The TFP has decided not to publish any opinions that contradict, criticize, or oppose news "reports" and articles allowed by the owners to see the light of's their paper, after all, and they will report the news as they want us to get it, Truth be damned. As with many, if not all, libtards the truth sticks in their craw.

Critical appraisal, yes. But then, the TFP is one of the few online newspapers I have seen that no longer permits comments on its news reporting.

January 2, 2012 at 6:15 p.m.
knightrider said...

SeaSmokie59er and Happywithnewbulbs, the fact that the Free Press is a private business and isn't a form of Government is every reason why they aren't allowed to prevent people from exercising free speech. If they're going to allow some comments on some stories but no comments on others, due to the fact that they don't like the fact that common,everyday ordinary people are "schooling" them on facts left out of articles and what not, that's violation of civil rights. Regardless of their purpose for it. Just because a privately owned business makes a rule or regluation doesn't mean that it's legally binding and supported by law. Take Walmart for example, they use to make employees sign a waiver stating that they won't start a union for better work conditions. Walmart had to stop that though because creating a worker's union is a form of petition and protest,and demanding employees to sign that document is a violation of their first amendment rights. As for a court ruling, their never has been such of a ruling by the Federal Courts Mr/Ms/Mrs Bulbs.In closing, if The Free Press doesn't want a lawsuit, they'll get rid of this policy , I've already consulted with my attorney on this and I for one would definately have a case.

January 2, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
Momus said...

their never has been such of a ruling by the Federal Courts...

Why should there be?

I've already consulted with my attorney on this and I for one would definately have a case.

If a person has this much time and resources at their disposal, why not start your own paper and print/post whatever you want.

In closing, you want to file suit against a private business because they will not let you write whatever you want on their website? Seems legit.

January 2, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.
spendy said...

Well I see Ms. Washington has yet again got another website opinion page in turmoil over her racist attitude. Sad....very sad & it's pretty obvious which poster I'm talking about. I, personally, find the opinions more entertaining then the stories themselves. Peace out!!!!

January 2, 2012 at 9:40 p.m.
patriot1 said...

So Ms. Gerbil, the editorette has a problem with others having an opinion? .

January 2, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.

knightrider: I suggest you consult with another attorney. Your example of Wal-mart is irrelevant, the right to form a union and whether or not you can sign away that right in a contract is distinct from what is being discussed here, which is the provision of an internet forum. And no, your free speech is not being restricted, you can communicate your ideas in any number of public venues, but that does not mean that the operators of this site need to give you anything based on the US constitution's first amendment. There have also been several rulings on it, you could start with Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, which applies very explicitly to California based on that state's constitution and the interpretations thereof, not to other states, but does include an explanation as to why that is the case, and some sections refer to other cases you could look up, which rule very specifically on whether newspapers need to print anything.

January 3, 2012 at 1:18 a.m.
longgone said...

This move by the TFP validates my recent decision to cancel our 30+ year subscription. In my opinion, it has been an irrelevant source of news (accurate or otherwise) for a very long time, finally becoming a joke with the strange choices of front-page headline stories, massive amount of ads in the front section (more ads than info), limited Letters to the Editors, etc. -- and this seems to fit right in with that policy of self-destruction.

As much as anything, I believe they should focus on hiring a real PROOFREADER for the printed and online editions -- the very frequent spelling & grammatical errors should be of major concern to someone on the staff. They certainly drive me crazy.

January 3, 2012 at 6:33 a.m.
ex_army65 said...

So the bottom line is that the newpaper is either too cheap or refuses to hire a moderator for the online comments. Thats what that persons job is to police the comments and make sure they stay in line with the papers standards. Most online newspapers incorporate this to maintain the integrity of the board. Why hasn't this newspaper thought of that?

January 3, 2012 at 7:39 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Oh man, this is really disappointing.

I think ceeweed said it best in his/her January 2, 2012 at 7:35 a.m post above.

January 3, 2012 at 8:35 a.m.
bret said...

This new policy of banning comments is a pretty stupid business decision. It only serves to create less readership for your online rag. How anybody at the TFP sees that as a good thing is a mystery.

January 3, 2012 at 10:28 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I agree with was just like a BIG family having a discussion over dinner. We don't all agree with each other but we respected each other's right to voice their opinion....and we STILL liked everyone.

Of course, cousins BillyBob and JimmieJoe have never gotten along but so what? You just accept it and go on. YOU DON'T BAN THEM FROM THE TABLE.

And if you did, I'd miss them. Just like now. I'll really miss everyone. And I DO mean everyone.(I think I'm gonna cry!)

January 3, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.
crystalkile said...

Commentary will settle across local sites native to social media, but I'll bet that it self-organizes and focuses in a way that only feeds and further exacerbates local social, cultural, and political divides and misunderstandings. How is that good for the Chattanooga region? Yes, times are weird all over, community moderation is difficult (and requires a strong and consistent bouncer hand), and the "newspaper" business is evolving rapidly, but that's no excuse for the TFP operation to drop its newspaper 2.0 basket.

After a few days of reading what now feels like a "dead" paper, I'm still unsure what to make of the new policy. Chattanooga remains a fine old town? One Chattanoogan isn't enough? Someone threatened a terrific lawsuit? Even the New Orleans Times-Picayune ( prohibits its notoriously brutal and frequently ill-informed readership only from commenting on posts in its "Society" section!

I will keep the TFP in my Facebook feed (as well as reading it over morning coffee) and post the occasional comment as allowed, but find it absurd that our metro newspaper of record regards Facebooking as a substitute for a social media policy and practice solution. Here's hoping that you rethink this move once whatever occasioned it has cooled off a bit.

January 3, 2012 at 11:35 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Democracy is messy. Freedom of the Press is messy. But it still amazes me that for a free society that we hold no accountability for or against those that do wrong. When someone steps over the line, socialistic remedies are always put into place, to keep the masses in line. TFP didn't like the comments, so they just stopped the comments. How patriotic of you TFP! "We don't like what the people say so we just told them to shut up"!

Question for Ms. Gerber: When one child does wrong, do you punish the entire class? It is done time and again in this town and no one that I know of calls it out as socialism. When the problem happened outside of the downtown church, they effectively shut the church down and now have the right to tell that church what, when, and how; socialism.

You people are so quick to call names like socailist against those with differing opinions, but when real socialism hits you in the face, you don't know it.

January 3, 2012 at 12:07 p.m.
skyboxer said...

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to flame and/or provoke readers of TFP stories. Like pointing out the fact that the 2011 Darwin Award was given to those two copulating dummies that got ran over by a train after falling asleep on the tracks out there at the McDonald farm..

Henceforth, I will be relegated to Opinion pieces and the like. As such, I will be spending a lot less time at the TFP site -- as I'm sure many readers will who enjoyed the rough and tumble environment afforded by the online comments.

January 3, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
agerber said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, positive and negative. I am glad to see that so many of you feel so passionately about the TFP’s comments section. As I said in the column, we truly struggled with our decision. And while we stand by it and encourage you to keep commenting on our Opinion columns and cartoons and on our Facebook page, we appreciate your your opinions about the comments section. I did want to make one thing clear: This is not a decision made with advertisers in mind. Advertisers didn’t enter the conversations among TFP managers about this decision. The decision was made based on our readers, our credibility and our reputation. Thanks again for sharing your views on this. Alison Gerber

January 3, 2012 at 3:41 p.m.

Justonewoman, that word you keep using, it does not mean what you think it means. Socialism means different things, but using it as a convenient label to describe something you don't like is not better when you do it either.

Try tyranny instead, or authoritarian. But even in the Congress, they have rules and structures for debate, and somebody can be told to come to order.

eastridge8: Actually, I have banned people from my house, they know it, and they accept it. Or if they don't, they face being removed by force when I call the police. And I do not consider it to be a family here, nor do I think there's an attitude of liking each other, or friendly chiding. My observations are of hatefulness, anger and bitter fights that have no honest dialogue coming from it.

Hence my suggestion of not even trying.

agerber: I only hope people realize that your decision, whether they like it or not, had valid grounds for it.

January 3, 2012 at 5:41 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

I blame this all on Dewey/Francis/SeaMonkey.

Dear TFP, the main reason that I liked reading the TFP online is because of the comment sections. It is always good entertainment. I don't like seeing that you are canceling the comment section because there are some thin-skinned types that can't get around being taunted by some anonymous poster. In case you haven't noticed, we regulars tended to take care of the problem ourselves. A well placed comment or two...continuing the conversation as if they didn't exist...a request to provide the source of their absolutely inane comment...usually resulted in that nasty tempered person losing interest and moving on. We are all adults here ( that MAY be questionable). We can handle it. But now you have me concerned about WHO, exactly, can't. Please tell me it is not your own reporters. Please.

And keep this in mind. If people were commenting that your stories are not factual...and there have been occasions when they weren't...just because you remove the comment section doesn't mean that the readers don't notice. It just means that they can't call you out on it. And then you will lose that audience. And that is something that I don't think that the TFP can afford.

January 3, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

SavartiTN said... I blame this all on Dewey/Francis/SeaMonkey.

They where all Clay! (joke) I miss 'them' too.

And L4F (a little).

January 4, 2012 at 7:46 a.m.
Shock said...

Here's my theory on why the comments have gone away. The TFP often reports on the doings of prominent citizens of Chattanooga. The information in the stories is controlled by the TFP, while the comments under the stories are not. Many of the comments under the story are directed at the prominent citizens and many of the comments claim this or that "fact" about the prominent citizens that is totally untrue. I think the threat of a lawsuit from a well resourced prominent citizen and his high dollar attorney are the reason the comments are now limited to opinion pieces instead of news stories. Just my 2 cents.

January 4, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Happy with New Bulbs, Thank you, and I will agree in part.

Socialism as defined by the Oxford Dictionary: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

In this case, the production, distribution, and exchange is the Mosaic Church. The City of Chattanooga regulating what one can do on private property is definately socialistic behavior.

When a teacher or community, such as the paper, refuses to call out and adhere to their own rules, then shuts down the process because the rules are not followed, the end result is many were punished for the acts of the few that were never called out or held accountable. Socialism probably wasn't the best word to use here, and I do apologize.

I understand completely why the paper had to look at this. I just do not agree with their decision. But as so many have pointed out, The TFP is a private business. It will be interesting to see just what this will mean to the bottom line.

January 4, 2012 at 8:31 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

There are a lot of folks out there who have profoundly objectionable and ill-founded, if not irrational opinions and whose comments are intended as a poison pen. Nevertheless, as long as they are not libelous they ought to be fair game for the electronic venue. That those comments also reflect a significant cross section of your local readership is informative.

Take a look at history. Newspapers from the opening of the Republic until mid 20th century seldom spared a public person's sensitivity or the boundary between good and bad taste. Albeit they typically were opinion pieces.

Finally, I think it is a loss to cut the opinions to only those subjects you have preselected as legitimate editorial subjects. It seems you are lapsing back into a printed media mindset and turning away from the challenge to use a new media effectively. Get creative, find a way.

January 4, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.
PaulWilson said...

Get over it folks. This is TFP's playground. If they want to take their ball and go home, that's their business.

January 4, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.

JustOneWoman: Yes, socialism is the wrong word to use. Trying to use a tortuous recount of events to fit that definition isn't an improvement, it's making it worse.

There are words that accurately describe it, use them, don't try to fit the popular derogatory terms to every situation.

inquiringmind: That could be just as easily said to all of the objectors here, why aren't they finding a way to set up a discussion forum of their own?

January 4, 2012 at 2:10 p.m.
mrredskin said...

what about all the "fact" stories (like when Pam "reports" on TVA) that are either lies or half-truths? figures.

January 4, 2012 at 2:11 p.m.
jesse said...

i can't believe the NITPICKIN is STILL goin on after they done went and shut this sucker down for exactly that reason!!(along w/all the flamin,name callin and downright RUDENESS!!)

hey justonewoman,you use that word anytime you want!!

January 4, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.

Actually, I'd say that people's stubborn use of a Personal Dictionary was one factor in the problems that lead to this decision.

January 4, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
Wilder said...

Who is going to counter Perla's perpetual propaganda campaign to subvert this country's immigration laws? No one. To my knowledge, the TFP has never, ever printed an article prsenting the other side of the issue. There is no balance in your reporting. And, your cub reporters don't have a clue about issues in Dalton, and completely avoid the most pressing issue that Dalton has faced since the Civil War - the flood of illegal aliens, and their impact on everything, and everyone in the community. I will never buy another one of your slanted newspapers or open this site. Adios Amigos!

January 4, 2012 at 7:01 p.m.
01centare said...

JustOneWoman said...
Question for Ms. Gerber: When one child does wrong, do you punish the entire class?

Uh, well, JOW, today's school system is actually set up to punish all students for the wrongs committed by a few. The system has been carrying out that group punishment for the actions of a few for the last 30+++++ years, I do believe. That's part of what has been killing public education. The rules constantly changing day to day, sometimes several times within a day. The system spent more time and energy trying to drum up new ways to punish students rather than teaching them. Confusing the students and holding them in constant fear. No child can learn in such a stressful atmosphere. Now we're dealing with the consquences of constant and instant punishment by having created another entire generation of dumb students who don't know how to come out of rain on their own.

January 5, 2012 at 9:01 a.m.
jesse said...

well it's been 6 or 7 days since you all shut down the comments on the site and after lookin at what has happened i think you might as well shut down the entire online edition!!

w/o the comments and rants(bad as some of them were!) you are sitting DEAD IN THE WATER!!

like neil young said years ago "every body know this place is no place!"

January 5, 2012 at 1:14 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Amen, Jesse!

January 5, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.
11states said...

im glad its shutdown,,, idiots like momus wont be able to spew drivel.

January 6, 2012 at 2:22 a.m.
jesse said...

HEY 11 states!


ever body on here SPEWS drivel of one sort or another!THAT'S what forums are FOR!!!

January 6, 2012 at 2 p.m.
potcat said...

Can anyone SAY TRAIN TRACKS.......

January 6, 2012 at 3:36 p.m.
Momus said...

The 11states still lost.

January 6, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
Paladin said...

Gerber, you're missing the point. If all these readers are so "anonymously" opinionated, the story is "Why Do They Feel That Way?" You want to mark it off as bigotry in order to be PC, maybe the story really is the vast number of people who feel like every cry baby is being heard rather than them? Just trying to find the root of the "problem," rather than the feelings. BTW, they are correct, much of TFP is not "news" or it is written in such a way to reflect the writers opinion.

January 7, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

Six days and I find myself coming to this website less and less.

January 7, 2012 at 11:15 p.m.
sla2010 said...

I think it is fabulous that this was shut down, now people can read a story and not have to see idiotic comments that 9/10 had no relation to the story. I have friends who work here, and I can guarantee you their education level is far about the idiot comments for on here prior to this date.

January 9, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
11states said...

The only thing those 11 states lost was the ability to lynch morons like you and jesse.

January 16, 2012 at 12:45 a.m.
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