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By Douglas Moran

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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Follow the money: Coverage for the next campaign

Uploaded: Nov 9, 2014
This is the first of a potential series of discussions about what news coverage residents would find useful about future local elections. Now is the time to have such a discussion because memories are still fresh, and because waiting until the next campaign is ramping up would result in many comments being attacked as partisanship for candidates in that election.

Some of this discussion might influence the Weekly's news coverage, but some of it might inspire some citizen journalism if they can see that there is enough of an audience to be worth the effort.

Background: The Weekly has very limited resources for covering the election (my impression?I am not authorized to speak for them): It is a big story, but hardly the only story (to get a sense, look at back issues and online stories). Recognize that I, and the other bloggers, are not on the staff of the Weekly?we are given space on the website in the hope that we draw eyeballs to their ads. We write for Palo Alto Online because it provides us with eyeballs that we wouldn't get elsewhere.

Some of this material I would have liked to have presented in this blog during the campaign, but I had self-imposed restrictions because I was a principal in a Council campaign (Lydia Kou's). Other material didn't make the cut when I selected what I guessed would be most interesting to the likely audience.

----Candidates----
The news coverage of the financial filings(foot#1) followed the conventional pattern?one taught in journalism school? However, this approach omits and obscures what is instructive about the status of the campaigns.

The first thing I look at is the donations: How much was raised and how. Asking for donations is very hard for most people, and not wanting to do this is a top reason given by potential candidates in deciding not to run. At campaign events, it is routine to have someone other than the candidate encouraging the audience to donate. In a local election such as City Council or School Board, there are several categories of contributors: special interests (developers and their allies, unions?), single-issue activists, ?, ordinary residents. The number of ordinary residents who donate is important to me because those tend to be the hardest to get, and tend to demonstrate the candidate's connection to the community and ordinary residents' confidence in the candidate's overall ability to serve. Because of space limitations, news articles tend to focus on a few prominent donors and omit this highly instructive aspect of the donor pool.

The pattern of donations is also indicative of who a candidate is talking to. Is it a campaign reaching out to the broader community? One focused on activists, special interests, insiders?? Or?

The news articles on this year's Council contest obscured the donor summaries by treating loans by the candidate to his own campaign as funds raised. Such loans are a reasonable way to cover expenses in the earliest stages of a campaign (August) before the fund-raising ramps up (September). However, the news articles reported this campaign's loans without highlighting how far outside normal patterns they were for this type of election. It would have been interesting to hear the candidates' rationales for those loans (I don't know what the reporters asked of the candidates for the articles).

For campaign watchers/analysts, there are two basic periods for the financial disclosure documents: The first goes through the end of September and the second covers the first half of October (the next closes after the election). Because so many use Vote-by-Mail ballots, which are sent out in early October, the campaign is very heavily front-loaded, and so too is the fund-raising. You should see most of the fund-raising in that first set of disclosures. The second set of disclosures includes the tail-end of this, but the remainder can be suggestive about the state of the various campaigns.

News articles tend to report large donations, but often with inadequate context. For example, during the second reporting period in the recent election, one candidate raised $10.5K from three donors in New Jersey and Florida (in the news article), and another $2.5K from a donor in Los Altos. That this was $13K of the $16.5K raised?80%?was obscured by the article including a $25K loan in the total, pushing the percentage down to 30% (percentages were not in the news article, but invited for those of us who automatically make such calculations when we see numbers).

The other part of the financial disclosure filings is the expenditures and cash-on-hand. For people running opposing campaigns, this can provide some guesses about the budgets. But for reporters and the electorate, a compare-and-contrast to competing campaigns and to campaigns in prior elections can provide some guesses and provoke questions to be asked of the campaigns.

The escalating costs of campaigns should also be receiving news coverage. In the past, $20-25,000 would allow a campaign to effectively reach the electorate, and on several occasions there were voluntary spending caps (recollection: $25K). In the mid-2000s there started to be much more expensive campaigns (recollection: 2005). Of the eight significant campaigns in the current Council contest, I project five to each have spent $20-30K for their whole campaign (final filings not yet available), with the other three having spent $31K, $45K and $64K as of the mid-October filing.

Absent a (voluntary) spending cap, there is a strong incentive to spend more on advertising (the biggest expense) to avoid yours from being swamped by a bigger spending opponent. This push to more expensive campaigns was accelerated by the 2009 decision to switch Council elections from odd years to even years (after the City changed its election schedule, the School District was essentially forced to follow suit). Now local candidates not only had to break through the advertising of other local candidates, but also state and federal candidates and state propositions.
Aside: The passage of Measure D, reducing Council size from 9 to 7, is expected by many to make campaigns during years when there are 3 seats even more expensive and combative.

This Council campaign also saw a very troubling development: a purported Independent Expenditure Committee named Palo Altans for Good Government (see my blog entry A reprehensible political ad). In one week, this group spent $7270 (on newspaper ads), that is, one-third of the lower level for what used to be the total for an effective campaign. Future candidates would be wise to substantially increase their budgets to be prepared for such.

If you want to look at the raw data for the City Council elections, it is available from the City Clerk's website.(foot#2)

I have made available a spreadsheet created for the campaign I was working on. There is similar data for the School Board contest and if someone with experience working with it could post details as a comment, it would be appreciated.

----Measure D----
The supporters of Measure D (to reduce Council size from 9 to 7) ran a substantial amount of advertising, both online and in print (Example: Palo Alto Weekly, issue of 31 October 2014, top half of page 11). The ads do not carry the "Paid for by" information that I understand is required by state law, nor could I find any sponsor or financial disclosure information (I checked with the City Clerk, but haven't heard back yet). Given the amount of ads I saw, it is unlikely that spending was less than the $1000 threshold for reporting. ++Update 11/10/2014: Filings have just been submitted: Expenditures of $11,880.

Although the larger print ads provided a long list of people endorsing the Measure, the smaller online ads had no disclosure info. Legal issues aside, is the community comfortable with this being good-enough, or is this something that people think should have gotten reported on? (foot#3)

----"Palo Altans for Good Government"----
As noted above, this group made substantial expenditures during the final full week of the campaign?$7270?which may be more than that of several of the major candidates in that period. Although the group did file financial disclosures on its donations and expenditures, I could not find a registration for the group, which I have been told is legally required.

The bigger question for me is why the purported "independence" of this group didn't receive public scrutiny during the campaign: 4 of the 17 listed supporters were "Honorary Co-chairs" of the candidates being endorsed by the ads, and other supporters were closely linked to the campaigns and candidates (details in a footnote in my blog A reprehensible political ad). Although the disclosure is "Not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate. No candidate was consulted.", my understanding is that the legal standard is much higher, prohibiting coordination with/by the campaign staff of the candidate(s) (California Fair Political Practices Commission, "What is an independent expenditure"). At the federal level, someone working on an independent committee has to sever all ties to the campaign and is forbidden to communicate with them about any matters related to the campaign (many avoid all communications just to be safe).

Note: The laws about independent expenditure committees exist for good reason. Claims that such committees are equivalent to other organizations will be deleted unless you provide fact-based arguments to support your contention (There will be some who equate what they find convenient to believe with being a fact, but that doesn't pass muster here). Some of the organizations that made endorsements and/or donations to candidates during the campaign had overlaps between their membership and the campaign committees (and even the candidates themselves). These overlaps were permissible (legal) and not unexpected, although different endorsing organizations have different rules about separation from the candidates (debate about the appropriateness of those rules is off-topic here?it is a matter between the membership and leadership of those organizations). These organizations included the local Democratic Party and various of its sub-organizations, Sierra Club, and PASZ.

----Mystery Poll----
What very little is known about "the mystery poll" has already been well covered in news articles ( Mystery poll queries residents on City Council race, October 01)?we don't need redundant speculation. Consequently, I am declaring it off-topic.

----Summary/Guidance----
This is an opportunity to discuss how the various local campaigns?Council, School Board, Measures?might have been better covered in service to the voters. Examples from the recent campaigns may be used as illustrations of a broader point, but re-fighting the election will not be allowed.

Think about what you discovered by chance, or thought was important that you found that others didn't know. And for people who have worked on campaigns, add what you have learned to look for.

Assume that there will be little change in how newspapers cover elections, so suggestions for additional information (such as the spreadsheet provided above) are likely going to have to be created and managed by a separate entity (what and how?).

---- Footnotes ----

1. News articles from Palo Alto Online/Weekly:
Palo Alto City Council challengers see influx of cash: Lydia Kou, A.C. Johnston lead the way in campaign contributions, October 7
Scharff beefs up campaign chest for final stretch: Incumbent leads crowded field in Palo Alto council race, Monday October 27

2. If you want to look at the details of the contributions and expenditures for yourself, the campaign filings can be found by going directly to the NetFile Portal for Palo Alto?do not go to the City Clerk's Elections page because this link is hard to spot, and the links you are likely to select are blind alleys. Once there, you can download the raw data in a spreadsheet (.xlsx) which is useful if you are searching for specific types of donations or donors. The spreadsheet is very wide and you will need to delete/hide columns to make it vaguely readable. The button to download this spreadsheet is at the top of the NetFile Portal page.
Note: The spreadsheet does not include data from candidates who submit hardcopy forms (Eric Filseth is the only one doing so in this contest).
Note: Be careful in using the raw-data spreadsheet for analysis. First, because it is assembled from incremental reports, it contains updated entries along with the original versions (and some duplicates). And it contains typos: For smaller campaigns, the NetFile service encourages manual transfers of data (rather than importing electronically).
To get data on individual candidates, go to the bottom of the NetFile Portal page and expand the "11/04/2014 General Election" to "Candidates" and then "Council Member". These are PDFs. The Form 460 show the donations and expenditures for each reporting periods (and to-date totals). Form 497 (if any) document donations during the late phase of the campaign that require immediate reporting because of their size (threshold $1000).

3. The editorial in the November 7 issue of the Palo Alto Weekly identifies the funder as Roger Smith.

----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particular strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", don't be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

Comments

 +   42 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 9, 2014 at 12:51 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Please click on the "Like this comment" button to give me a sense of how many people are actually reading this blog.
Explanation: The statistics I see only tell me how many times the page was opened, which includes robots and people who sample to see if they are interested.

Notice that there are two new features -- see the box just above "Post a comment"

1. You can sign up to be notified by email when a new comment is posted to the blog entry (the same as been available on Town Square Forums), and

2. You can sign up to be notified of new blog entries in series.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Some Town Square Forum topics/threads on which you may also find analysis:

Editorial: Election results signify an inflection point in local politics (Web Link)

Election analysis: How they won ? and lost: What Palo Alto's precincts map tells about Election Day 2014 (Web Link)

----
Below is a comment giving an interesting analysis from the first article copied here. Caveat: vote totals and financials were far from final at the time of that comment (and still aren't final).
It is a good example of the sort of analysis that campaign teams have done for years.
For anyone updating this analysis, the statement about Johnston vs Wolbach spending about the same is wrong: At the mid-October reporting point, Johnston had spent $45K vs Wolbach's $15K with cash-on-hand similar (about $7K) after including Johnston's $10K loan to his own campaign.

----------

Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:39 pm

This election is quite a treasure of data to compare what effect money, establishment endorsements, and newspaper endorsements can have on voters.

Compare for example Tom DuBois & Eric Filseth - the only significant difference I can discern is that Tom got Simitian's endorsement - and the difference in vote count is about 600 votes.

Compare as another example Kou, DuBois & Eric Filseth - Kou had about 30% more money, but did not have the Weakly's newspaper endorsement - net difference 800 - 1400 votes.

Compare Scharf & Shepard - both incumbents, with similar endorsements, similar voting records. Scharf had $80,000 + the Weakly, Post & Daily News newspaper endorsement; Shepard had $30,000 & no newspaper endorsements - net difference 2,300 votes.

Compare Wolbach & Shepard - novice vs incumbent, similar endorsements, similar money. Wolbach has the Weakly's endorsement - net difference is 900 votes.

Compare Wolbach & AC Johnston - novice vs novice, similar endorsements, similar money. Wolbach has the Weakly's endorsement - net difference is 1800 votes.

Crunching the numbers, the Weakly's endorsement is worth about $8,000 - $10,000 in campaign contributions.

Establishment endorsements about $3,000 - $5,000 in campaign contributions.

Scharff with his big campaign contribution of over $80,000 was just overwhelming; and then add in his incumbency advantage, and 3 newspaper endorsements, and its like he had $100,000 campaign budget vs the $30,000 - $40,000 for the other candidates.

That's why Scharff did so well.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Update on lack of filings for Measure D: The City Clerk notified me that they have just been submitted: Expenditures of $11,880


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Maybe if the PA Weekly stopped spending so much time "moderating" Town Square, they'd have more time to do actual reporting.

Most of the posters on Town Square are educated adults, not trolls or kids. Yet the moderators censored and hence derailed substantive discussions of the issues and candidates.

Very sad and counter-productive, especially in such a close election and at a time when newspapers are struggling and media credibility isn't the shining star it once was.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Citizen, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Doug,
I suggest a post on the topic of endorsements. Do they matter, how do they happen, etc.? This time there were some very odd developments, for example, Anna Eshoo, Rich Gordon, Joe Simitian, etc., endorsing A.C. Johnston. Are these really based on the candidate's personal qualities, or are they simply (as they appeared to be) the Establishment rallying behind its own interests, and applying lipstick to the nearest pig and pronouncing it Marilyn Monroe?

[[Blogger: I am considering "Endorsements" as the next entry, but with that being a peripheral or minor aspect.
]]


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Jo Ann

Before TSF increased the amount of moderation, virtually all residents I talked to said that they would not post on TSF, even under the veil of anonymity, because of the dominance of trolls and other abusers.

TSF's increase in moderation followed an established pattern in the industry that recognized that allowing abusers free rein had destroyed the value of their forums. For example, there are a number of liberal-oriented online magazines where the comments aren't worth even looking at because they are dominated by anti-Obama venomous rants.

A good moderator needs to regard offenses in comments in a different light than a generic reader. Speaking as a moderator with experience going back over two decades, I find the TSF moderation reasonable (and had serious complaints about the laxity of the earlier minimal moderation).

One cannot have a substantive discussion when a significant portion of the participants feel free to fabricate "facts" to support their preconceived ideas, to make false accusations against those that disagree with them, engage in ad hominem attacks, take the position that they aren't bound by accepted definitions of words.

There is no substantive discussion in a forum where someone can "win" by declaring that "black is white" until all rational participants leave out of disgust and exhaustion.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Wim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:38 am

((Blogger: This comment would normally have been deleted as violating multiple rules: off-topic, disrespectful... but I am leaving it as an example of the problems faced by a moderator and especially someone trying to cover aspects of a campaign.

As a moderator, you aren't thinking so much about the individual comment itself, but the tone it sets and the chain-reaction it might set off.

Heavily annotated version in the next comment.
))

RE: Citizen
I voted for AC Johnston ((deleted by blogger: explicitly declared to be off-topic: re-fighting the election))

My observations of the general tenet of the discussion on this board has been one of amazement.
Even though the group advocating for slow growth was successful in getting 3 out of their 4 candidates elected, they are not satisfied but keep on griping that Kou was not elected also. The implication is that all the establishment forces must have something to do with that too.

Doug, it is my recommendation that you rename your blog ?A Partisan?s Take?. The few blogs I have seen from you have been heavily skewed and have had much innuendo. ((deleted: more on the candidates)) But your articles do not help creating a more constructive environment in the city. And that is what we need right now.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:44 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

((Blogger: This comment would normally have been deleted as violating multiple rules: off-topic, disrespectful... but I am leaving it as an example of the problems faced by a moderator and especially someone trying to cover aspects of a campaign.
))

RE: Citizen
I voted for AC Johnston ((deleted by blogger: explicitly declared to be off-topic: re-fighting the election
))

My observations of the general tenet of the discussion on this board has been one of amazement.
Even though the group advocating for slow growth was successful in getting 3 out of their 4 candidates elected, they are not satisfied but keep on griping that Kou was not elected also. The implication is that all the establishment forces must have something to do with that too.
((Blogger: What I am seeing are some questioning a very large vote swing that is highly unusual at that point in the counting process and that occurred in context of the widely reported problems in the Registrar of Voters operation.
I am not seeing "griping".
I am not seeing "...implication...".
These two claims against what is visible in what I am reading on this site and therefore put this commenter at the boundary of being a troll. These are not good-faith representation of what is being said.
A comment this disingenuous is a strong candidate for deletion.
)).

Doug, it is my recommendation that you rename your blog ?A Partisan?s Take?.
((Blogger: consult your dictionary: being pragmatic is about *how* one makes a decision and does not exclude having viewpoints about how to prioritize the tradeoffs.

Def: partisan: "an adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, especially a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance."
As the commenter admits below, s/he didn't bother to look at enough blogs to determine whether this was true, but decided to make the charge anyway. One basic lessons that moderators quickly learn is that once you see a couple of instances of this type of irresponsible/dishonest behavior, just delete the comment and hope the commenter goes away -- no matter how gently you try to deal with such a person, they are unlikely to try to mend their ways but instead are going to "scream like a stuck pig" that they are victims, being suppressed, censored,...
Aside: If you look back at my blogs and years of GuestOps and comments in TSF, you will find that what I have been saying in these blogs during this campaign is consistent with those views, and not tailored to a particular candidate or candidates.
))

The few blogs I have seen from you have been heavily skewed and have had much innuendo.
((Blogger:
Def: innuendo: "an indirect intimation about a person or thing, especially of a disparaging or a derogatory nature."
This is the sort of attack that I routinely delete because it is so vague that it provides no basis for being falsified. It is "If I believe it, it is a fact." Uhhh, no.
))

((deleted, more on the candidates))
But your articles do not help creating a more constructive environment in the city. And that is what we need right now.

((Blogger: On needing "a more constructive environment": That is like Microsoft CEO Nadella recent advice to women not to ask for raises but to trust in the system (advice which generated a well-deserved firestorm).

Aside: I was at the 10/30 "Our Palo Alto" pizza event and wound up sitting with the City Manager. He continued to deflect my attempts to engage about "constructive engagement" (earlier blog post).

"Constructive" has a long tradition as code used by the Establishment to try to silence uppity outsiders. It is very easy for someone new to politics to inadvertently use code words, so the moderator has to look at the rest of the message to make a guess about the commenter's level of sophistication and intent. Deliberate use of code words indicates the commenter is being disingenuous and is likely to continue if allowed.
Aside: That the uppity outsiders include people like me -- a Ph.D. in high tech -- says interesting things about Palo Alto.

Another reason I would have considered deleting this comment is the blatant hypocrisy: Disparaging others is a no-no, but doing it while arguing for the contrary? This level of hypocrisy is virtually guaranteed to knock a discussion onto a tangent. It is one of the basic tools of trolls. But it can also be a warning sign of someone who is so blinded by their beliefs that they cannot engage in good faith discussion. Or it could someone who wrote without thinking. A good moderator looks at what surrounds it and decides.

If the comment had been such that it appeared that the commenter was simply oblivious to one of the major causes of passions in this election was that many residents felt they were being dismissed and treated with disrespect by City Hall, told "we know best" (aka "know your place") ... I would have regarded that comment as unfortunately provocative. I would have let it stand and let other commenters make that point.
))

((BASIC LESSON: look at the effort required to explain myself. Moderators just don't have the time to do this except for mild cases. Consequently, if a comment is too problematic, it gets deleted.

This is a subcase of generic Group Leadership: once of the worse non-decisions you can make is to tolerate toxic members/behaviors.
))


 +   6 people like this
Posted by I am confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:52 am

((Deleted by blogger:
quote presented outside critical context,
unsupported attack,
key term used contrary to its definition
))


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Moran fan, a resident of Professorville,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:21 am

Keep doing what you're doing. I look forward to new postings. Not true of the baby/college prep/self-improvement bloggers here.
Note to PA online editors: More political blogs, please. The solution to "bias" is more speech, not less.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by I am confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 8:03 am

((Deleted by blog: disingenuous))


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Wim, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 11, 2014 at 8:33 am

Wow, let's see if anything out of this blog survives the capricious pen of the moderator.
((Blogger: disrespectful. Justifies deletion of whole comment))

Citizen writes and is allowed to leave on the page:
"Doug,
I suggest a post on the topic of endorsements. Do they matter, how do they happen, etc.? This time there were some very odd developments, for example, Anna Eshoo, Rich Gordon, Joe Simitian, etc., endorsing A.C. Johnston. Are these really based on the candidate's personal qualities, or are they simply (as they appeared to be) the Establishment rallying behind its own interests, and applying lipstick to the nearest pig and pronouncing it Marilyn Monroe?"

When I respond with AC Johnston's personal qualities that made me vote for him it is considered "off-topic" and removed by the moderator.

((Blogger: "Citizen"s statement was a standard question about how professional politicians make an endorsement. A.C. Johnston was a legitimate example of a very generic situation, as was allowed. The portion of your statement that I deleted was advocacy for Johnston, which was explicitly prohibited.
This is not a distinction that should escape anyone with anywhere near commenter "Wim"s purported education level (below). This is something I *might* excuse for a college sophomore, but at your level, this is dishonesty.
))

The moderator casually states: "Aside: That the uppity outsiders include people like me -- a Ph.D. in high tech -- says interesting things about Palo Alto."

Please let it be said that I also am a Ph.D. in high tech. And I recognize censorship where I see it, no matter how much lipstick you put on that one.

((Blogger: notice that the commenter fails to defend, support or retract any of the abusive behavior identified in the previous comment.
PaloAltoOnline's policy (not just this blog) is to delete inappropriate comments, which include those that are not "respectful and truthful" (see their statement under "Post a comment").
This is not "censorship" in the commonly understood meaning -- that of prohibiting legitimate expression of ideas in an appropriate forum.
))


Regards,

Wim (I post under my own name, unlike many of the peaple that ageree with you and whos comments you let stand.

((Blogger: two closing piece of disingenuousness:
1. An "own name" that does not provide an identifiable person is no different from an unregistered alias.
2. Implies that how commenters choose to identify themselves is a factor in moderation policy. False.
))


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Numb, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:52 am

I started out reading this blog with great interest. I would truly welcome a fact-based discussion of local issues. As someone who voted for Kou, Filseth, et al, I have no axe to grind. It seems that it turned into a blog on moderating, though, which is not what I was interested in.

But since I've spent all of this time reading, I want to comment that I do find the Weekly's moderating very slanted - what they choose to delete and what they choose to leave often seems to depend on whether a viewpoint is contrary to the weekly's view.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Numb,
Thank you for reading the blog. I too was very disappointed that this topic didn't generate more interesting comments on the primary topic.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On the "Weekly's moderating (being) very slanted"--since this keeps coming up and is highly relevant to what it is possible to cover. This is a situation that can lead to self-censorship--deciding not to cover news because one doesn't want to deal with the headaches.

Recognize that there are a number of biases in play, not just what one may attribute to the Weekly. Note: I have no role in the moderation of Town Square Forums, and see only what other readers see, that is, I see a comment I remember reading earlier has been deleted. However, what I do see seems reasonable to me, and a long way from favoring particular viewpoints.

First, regardless of the viewpoint of the article, a large proportion of the inappropriate comments are likely to in opposition to that article, so one expects to see absolutely fair moderation produce a disproportionate number of deletions within those "disagreeing" with the article.

Second, memory effects: One is more likely to notice and remember deletions of comments that one agrees with, and make more allowances for the inappropriateness of those comments.

Third, it is not editorial bias to delete a comment that is clearly off-topic, that is, a comment that is inappropriate for the topic/thread it was posted to.

Fourth, the moderator has a different perspective than the commenters and readers: The moderator is akin to the chairperson of a meeting who is trying to cover the agenda in the available time and is far more sensitive to the problems resulting from letting members of the meeting go off on rants, tangents,... It is not editorial bias to delete a comment that is bile directed at people that the commenter disagrees with. Nor is it to delete fabricated "facts" and the like.

Please, before you attribute bias by the Weekly to a comment being deleted, consider the other factors above.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Numb, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

((Deleted by blogger: belligerently disrespectful.

Note: This "Numb" may be a different person than the earlier commenter using that identifier.
))


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 13, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Apologies. Comments are shut down.
The immediate cause was one person repeatedly posting the same inappropriate comment: 7 repetitions in 80 minutes (which I deleted). This came after lesser sequences of "bombing" (also deleted).

Since there have been no substantive comments in some time, it is not worth the hassle of dealing with the abusive commenters.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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