Mayor Eddie A. Perez wants The Courant to immediately ban what he describes as racist comments and hate speech on the discussion forums on the newspaper's website.
In an open letter dated Monday, Perez and five other city politicians also demanded that Courant publisher Stephen D. Carver publicly apologize for allowing Courant.com to become a "platform for racist hate speech."
Carver said he will review oversight procedures for the Topix boards but at this point doesn't anticipate an apology. The Topix forums allow readers to add written, often anonymous comments to stories published on the website.
Carver said the discussion boards are an imperfect but valuable vehicle for public dialogue.
"We will certainly try to perfect the system as we go forward," Carver said. "We don't promote or foster hate speech."
Some newspapers employ people whose job is to moderate discussion boards. The Courant does not have any staff assigned solely to that task, though editors are asked to keep an eye on the boards and delete discussions that deteriorate into abusive exchanges.
"We get these things down as soon as we're made aware of them," Carver said of offensive comments. "We pull down the entire thread if it continues to go on."
Perez's letter cited recent posts in which people referred to Hartford residents as "barbarians" and the city itself as "Beruit." The comments followed news stories and a video of a May 30 hit-and-run that left Hartford resident Angel Arce Torres critically injured.
Perez's letter, which was sent to various media outlets, was addressed to Carver and Sam Zell, CEO of The Courant's parent Tribune Co. The letter was co-signed by City Council President Calixto Torres; Council Majority Leader rJo Winch; state Sen. John Fonfara and state reps. Kelvin Roldan, Kenneth Green and Douglas McCrory.
Courant.com encourages readers "to share your thoughts about our stories. However, comments that are obscene, overly personal, racist or otherwise inappropriate will be removed. Because the messages are posted instantly and anonymously, Courant.com cannot vouch for their accuracy or authenticity."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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