On Inauguration Day, it's clear that Nola.com still has some work to do dealing with its Comments sections.
As of 9:45 a.m., the Nola.com app still hosted a poll that asked, "Should we wish President Obama well in his second term?" The possible responses were a) "Absolutely. The president's success is our country's success." b) "Maybe. I wish our president the best, but I want to evaluate each of his policy proposals on its own merits." and c) "No. His policies run counter to the interests of our country." As of 10:04 a.m., 58.42% says Absolutely, 34.14% says No, and 7.44% says Maybe.
My first response: Way to speak paranoia to the paranoid. Nothing feeds the fantasies of those who fear Obama's Marxist Totalitarian takeover like putting it among the list of possible responses.
Second response: This is what happens when a media outlet cuts down on the number of editors, but the writer, Carlos Sanchez, is the managing editor of Nola.com's Baton Rouge bureau. The poll initially appeared on Nola.com but has since been taken down.
While hunting for this poll on Nola.com, I saw the list of stories with the most comments stories, and it's hard to imagine that it's a coincidence that the top five all involved African American males - three on Nagin, one by Jarvis DeBerry on Martin Luther King Day, and one an African American male who strangled a woman. When I started looking at this issue this morning, a story titled "For Some, Attending Obama Inaugural is Relief from Anti-President Rhetoric" was on the Most Comments list (and with 147 comments as of press time, it's the second-most comented upon active story, above four currently on the list). It includes such gems as:
You can be certain only worship for the aObamanation will be offered.
Down with the USA (created by white men)!
Down with the Constitution (written by white men)!
Hooray for the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Kwanzaa)!
Gordon Russell's story on Ray Nagin's efforts to settle into a Dallas suburb did offer a moderate cause for hope as the target of hostility moved off of African Americans and landed on Texas in the Comments. Evidently being Black is better than being a Texan, and it's probably better than being a Falcons fan, but Nola.com really has to find a better solution to the Comments Section question than whatever it's doing now.
Admittedly, much of what is there is simply bitter cynicism directed toward almost everything, and not simply coded racism. That's harder to deal with because it doesn't cross borders so clearly that it can be taken down, but it lays out an ugly, hostile discourse that adds a mean dimension to the site. If Nola.com wants the site to be the primary online news outlet for all New Orleanians, it has to do better, and avoiding cheap sensationalism like Sanchez's poll is just a start.
Note: Since I wrote this, the Anti-President Rhetoric story moved back into the Top Five.