There was this blogpost that community, unpaid blogger Heather Rusaw-Fazio wrote for the Times Union site in the spirit of #MeToo. It became not visible and the site inaccessible to the blogger because the post did not meet whatever community standards the Times Union thought were being violated.
Which standards, exactly?
Ultimately, Chuck Miller posted the piece on his blog, and I on mine. I referred to it as a “banned” post.
Rex wrote to a friend of mine:
We did not, in fact, silence a woman’s voice. A woman who is the senior editor in charge of engagement – and thus the supervisor of community blogs – took the step of protecting Heather and the Times Union from a potential libel claim. (As publisher of the blog, we are susceptible to libel claims.) We are quite eager to publish Heather’s post, but we have suggestions to make it less likely that we – and Heather – might be vulnerable legally. Since we have a lot of experience in legal matters, we could advise her on this, but at this point she has chosen to remain silent rather than accept any such suggestion. It is very regrettable, but there is certainly no intent on our part to shut down conversation.
What does Heather have to say about this to Rex? This is pretty much the opposite of what Heather was told by TU folks:
There has been very little to no consistency on blogger standards from blogger to blogger or post to post for some, and I hope you take the time to read all of this and truly understand.
Is it the use of f**k? This is the first time I’ve actually censored myself in using the F word in this blog or the Books blog. I’ve said worse and have used the full word minus asterisks in the past with no shut out or removal of the blog. Not consistent.
Is it the word penis? Insertion?
How would you prefer I describe sexual assault? His “thing?”
Is it because it’s pornographic?
The definitions of sexual assault and pornographic content is vastly different. I’ve violated neither the contract I signed, which is valid, until another is presented.
Kristi wrote about mother/daughter porn and it’s still there. Readers have shared others. Not consistent.
Tena specifically mentions “graphic.”
The only correlation between the word graphic and the newly shared ToS to which we must also adhere, is to the word pornographic or child pornography. Show me differently where I’m in violation.
It has been eight or nine months since Huber left, yet he’s being blamed as the reason for no contact information? If you have his equipment or network access through AD, you have access to everything he had, specifically his Outlook contacts. Not one person there has made an effort (in 8 or 9 mos) to take a couple hours to organize your community of independent bloggers?
Let me just present you with the scenario. I was terrified while writing that blog. Every emotion came back to me as it usually does when I allow myself to recall the assaults. I was in tears. I was shaking. I felt like I was going to vomit. I felt like I was going to be dismissed – again. I published and then unpublished. I finally scheduled it for 6 a.m. when I knew my alarm would go off at 6:30 and it would be too late to change my mind.
Then the comments are coming all morning. I received about 30 private messages, 10 texts, couple phone calls, about 5 emails from women saying “me too” and sharing their story with me and saying thank you. I’m finally beginning to understand the impact one story can have. My stomach calms down and I stop shaking. I’m finally able to actually to get food in my stomach.
Then I get the email from Tena. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain what that did to me emotionally. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the impact that had on the women who follow me. I shouldn’t have to explain that once again I was shut down, silenced, and made to feel as if I had done something wrong by sharing sexual assault stories. Go to my Facebook page to find out. It’s all public.
Hundreds more are involved now and asking what I want them to do. I’ve been asked if you’ve apologized. No.
Rex, I appreciate your attempt to explain it was all a miscommunication, but it was absolutely wrong and in direct discord with what was agreed to after Chuck Miller’s situation until the “mysterious new Hearst blogger contracts” appear. Communication is supposed to happen prior to pulling a blog.
Shannon, you, and Tena have my email address and I can be reached on Facebook. There is no excuse, especially not Huber leaving you with nothing.
Unfortunately, it’s clear that no one on staff really cares about our little group – and that’s fine. It is what it is, right?
I will call XXXXX tomorrow to gain access so that I can simply delete the post.
Thus the disconnect.
Rex took exception to my term “banned,” and in a limited sense, he is correct. Heather herself had said that if the second overture made to her by the paper, from Rex himself, had taken place initially, and much earlier, the problem might have been resolved.
But I was thinking of “banned” as in what happens in Banned Book Week, when it celebrates items that were banned or challenged.
I was reading a September 28 Times Union editorial. Make absentee voting easy, and it actually explains an effective ban:
Eligible voters in New York may legally cast an absentee ballot only for certain reasons — sickness, disability, infirmity, or being out of town on Election Day. But those who juggle work and obligations like child care, or who lack transportation, or who simply have no time to get to the polls, are left with a choice: forfeit their democratic right, or falsely claim a legal excuse, as some admit they do.
This obstacle is likely a key reason why turnout to choose local, state and national leaders is so poor in the Empire State. This form of voter suppression — intentional or not — is fundamentally little different from strategies employed in states that purposely make it difficult for many people, especially low-income urban residents, to vote, from requiring photo IDs to having fewer polling sites or locating them out of the way for those without personal transportation.
Now, I happen to agree with the sentiment of the piece. But a literalist would argue that, since there was apparently no intentional bias against a class of people, there is no voter suppression, even if the vote is suppressed.
So the Times Union may not have INTENDED to suppress Heather’s piece. But by locking her out of her page, and being slow in communicating with her why, it effectively accomplished the same thing. And she’s going away, which is a shame.
Unsurprisingly, Chuck Miller has a take on this issue.
One thought on ““Banned” in a functional sense”
Here’s the thing. The Times Union treated a sensitive and delicate and important issue with the same sensitivity as using a chainsaw to remove a splinter. And now they hope that the blogger will simply say, “Oh great Times Union, I am so sorry that I violated the terms of service, have pity and mercy on me, and take me back, I’m groveling here and rendering my garments and looking for some sack-cloth to wear.” Yeah. The Times Union’s front office kabonged Heather Fazio and Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, and now they’re acting like it’s the bloggers’ fault that they were removed from the TU portal. Ugh.