Yesterday was an important day for Linux Today, because it
started a dialogue that was clearly beginning too late. I spent
most of the day and a large part of the evening reading comments on
Linux Today and elsewhere, coming to grips with what we were being
told by readers.
What most probably do not realize is that I have been
effectively running LinuxToday for the past few weeks. Kevin
Reichard asked to be re-assigned within the company and he has been
phasing out his involvement in internet.com's Linux channel. As of
earlier this week, I took over the reins completely.
The most disturbing trend I picked up as I followed reader
comments yesterday was the sense that Linux Today's quality has
been in decline over the past few months. Part of that sentiment is
based on a reduced story count. The general sense that the site has
subtly changed could only be given a negative tint by claims that
Linux Today has been "log-rolling" and excluding other sites from
its coverage for competitive reasons. I have to address both,
because they're key to issues of trust so many readers brought
Times have been hard around the Web publishing industry. Linux
Today has struggled with those hard times the same as everybody
else. Our corporate parents set budgets for the site that were too
optimistic and valuable colleagues have been released because
there's been no way to sustain the staff sizes with which we
entered the year. Our bullpen has dwindled to the point Linux Today
is, by necessity, a largely one-editor operation. The story count
couldn't help but go down.
Intertwined with this decline in content are the accusations
that Linux Today has been unfairly exclusive of other sites for
competitive reasons. This is a hard, nuanced issue to address, but
it relates critically to the value Linux Today provides.
The site has a responsibility to the company that pays the
I believe in the quality of the content that comes from around
internet.com, and I have a general belief it is worth inclusion on
Linux Today. That's never been a hidden process: when an
internet.com site is either linked or its story re-used, it's shown
either in the site attribution or the writer's byline, which
invites the reader to assess whether to click through or not based
on his or her experience with the source.
The site has a responsibility to its readers.
My publication experience includes work on college newspapers,
small town weeklies, and company newsletters. I understand full
well that any source of news is viewed by its audience as a
community trust. When thousands of readers come through your doors
every day looking for news, they're making a silent statement about
the quality of your work, and they're making an implicit
declaration of trust.
Readers clearly find it abhorrent that Linux Today might ignore
good sources and stories out of over-competitive impulses. The
reputation of the site had been one of general inclusiveness for
years, and as we've tried to adjust to the market and the state of
reporting on Linux, we've changed. It's clear from responses that
we haven't found our stride.
Through all of this, we've believed we were looking for the
right balance. We will continue to reject some submissions and fail
to link to some stories. There are 'bot sites on the Web that
automate and harvest anything that passes the Linux 'grep test,'
and no one has ever believed they offer the ability to provide what
editors exercising good judgment can provide: a news feed that
provides timely, useful information.
I hope readers will stick around to see whether we've listened
well enough through this to justify renewed confidence in that
editorial judgement. I also hope readers understand that we'll
continue to listen, and that we'll respond to queries about
editorial decisions, as we always have, when they're directed to us
Our talkbacks will continue to be moderated by Linux Today
staff. Other sites choose to allow unrestricted discussion, and we
respect their decision, but the conclusion we have reached after
examination of this issue is that when our talkbacks are moderated
dispassionately, readers find more value in them. As the talkback
policy already states, comments by readers that contain profanity
and personal attacks will be deleted. We will continue to struggle
with the issue of discerning what constitutes useless and
inflammatory provocation, but we believe we provide the best forum
possible when we provide moderation. We also believe the majority
of our readers will provide good speech to counter the bad.
Anyone who has a suspicion that their comments were deleted
unfairly is always free to write email@example.com and we
will respond. We will respect the anonymity of readers who choose
to challenge our moderation.
We will also not permit the use of pseudonyms by staff members
in our talkbacks. Though debate continues on the acceptability of
the practice, that debate will invariably involve gray areas that
we believe are best avoided by forbidding the practice.
Because of the long-standing nature of this issue, I'll maintain
this editorial toward the top of our newsfeed for the next day in
order to allow full discussion among our readers. I'll make myself
available in our talkbacks as much as other duties permit to answer
direct queries pertinent to this editorial. I believe this exchange
will be just as valuable in restoring trust between us as anything
I could write.
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