Washington Post‘s Jim Brady says that the public never saw the most offensive comments to ombudsman Deborah Howell:
Pensacola, Fla.: After reading the over 400 of the comments in question, which by the way, were saved by someone before they were removed, I saw no hate speech, one four letter word, and I can’t imagine what you found so offensive as to remove them. Could you please explain exactly what problem you had with them?
Jim Brady: You were reading the ones that were posted live. There were a few hundred others that were removed the site altogether, and those would not be on the page you’re looking at.
He says that the comments are not pre-screened:
Bloggs Park: I guess the most obvious suggestion, and I’m sure you considered it, why not have someone screen the submissions the way Amazon does on its buyer reviews?
Jim Brady: Pre-screening is something we’ve discussed, but in a perfect world, that would not be necessary. Real-time debate about the issues of the day is exciting, and what the Web can provide. Any pre-screening makes that harder, but in certain subject areas, it may be the way we have to go. But we’ll see.
He says that the comments are blocked:
IP: Salon has a screen shot of the comments from the shut down blog. They are just critical of the inaccurate and misleading statements being made by your Ombudsman.
Jim Brady: As I said earlier, that screen shot is only what was live, not what we blocked. There’s no way for you to see what we blocked, and you should be happy about that, believe me. I learned some new words this week.
Regrettably, my question didn’t make it through to Brady before he left for his turkey sandwich lunch, but I asked:
Mr. Brady: Can you explain the difference between “screening” comments (which you say you do not do) and “blocking” comments (which you say you do)? And why, if your comment blocking prevented the posts the WP objected to (since you say they did not appear on the snapshots taken by Salon and others) was it necessary to remove those posts if they weren’t the objectionable ones?