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Counterfeiting Free Speech

March 9, 2009

I don’t know how many of you have followed the tragedy unfolding in Florida. If not, here’s a quick synopsis: A couple of NFL players and their friends went out on a fishing excursion about a week ago. When beautiful weather turned vicious, their 20 foot boat capsized and all were tossed into the sea. After two days of searching, one man was found suffering from hypothermia and clinging to the overturned boat.The Coast Guard has since called off the search, leaving loved ones and family members to continue the search on their own.

Marquis Cooper, an offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders was the owner of the boat and is among the missing. I knew Marquis as a teenager. His father, Bruce (Coop, as we all call him) is one of the sports anchors at my old TV station in Phoenix. Coop is one of the all-around nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He is currently in Florida, desperately trying to keep volunteers and hired help searching for any signs of his son and his son’s friends.

The media has been all over this story. It’s made national and international news. But here’s where I get disgusted… If you go onto any of the websites of the newspapers in Florida and start reading the comments posted after the news reports; you’ll quickly learn that racism, ignorance and downright venom are all alive and well in the good ol’ USA. From website-posters questioning whether black people should be allowed to own boats because they don’t swim as well as white people to claims that there is only one survivor because the others weren’t smart enough to hang on to the boat. How ludicrous!

As a journalist, I’m all for the first amendment. Where I draw the line is the practice of allowing people to post anonymous comments on a newspaper or television’s website. All this does is foster vicious and malicious comments that few people would dare to post if they had to identify themselves. This is not truly free speech. Its counterfeit speech—hidden behind a cloak made up of cowards. C’mon Scripps, Belo, Gannett and all the other big media conglomerates— raise the bar, lead the way and cut the anonymous posting. What are we really protecting?

I’d love to hear what you think.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cindy permalink
    March 10, 2009 6:46 am

    Thank you, Lonnie for calling it what it is; cowardly and very disheartening. If you have the desire to write such hideous things you should definately be required to stand in the “cross-fire” of rebuttal. That is like being a masked sniper. Please dis-allow people to post annonymous comments.

  2. lonnilb permalink
    March 10, 2009 10:05 pm

    I agree Cindy. Now if we could just get the big boys in the media to ban annonymous comments.

  3. March 10, 2009 11:23 pm

    With you ladies all the way. I’m all for a lively conversation, but there’s a line that has to be drawn…

  4. Daryl Evans permalink
    March 23, 2009 5:35 pm

    Lonnie and Friends

    Thank you for taking the time to address the racism that the newspapers allow on their websites. I was appalled and shocked to read them when I first started following this tradegy. As an african american I truely felt disheartened that people could sink so low during a time of so much pain for the families. I can only hope and pray that the familes never get wind of the horrible things that were said.

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