Ask the Editor

Why no photos of other Isla Vista victims?

sduerr@thetribunenews.comJuly 3, 2014 

Sandra Duerr

Q: Why have you not published photos of the Asian college students who were stabbed to death by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista in May? We’ve noticed that you did publish photos of the three white students shot to death. — Two readers

A: We have tried repeatedly to locate photos of the three Chinese teenagers — two roommates of Rodger who were UCSB students and their friend — from The Tribune’s multiple wire services that have covered the rampage. But The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, among others, have not released the teens’ photographs. “We never got permission to use the photos from the families,’’ explained AP’s Los Angeles bureau chief Anthony Marquez. You may have seen images of the Asian teens on TV, but that is most likely because they pulled them from Facebook, which we avoid doing without an individual’s permission.

Q: Please give serious consideration to allowing non-Facebook subscribers to post comments to your website. I do not have a Facebook account, nor would I create one for the sole purpose of being allowed to comment on The Tribune’s website. I am personally aware of individuals, like me, who do not have Facebook accounts and would participate in commenting if your exclusive Facebook restriction was lifted. — Leslie Sands, Los Osos

A: Our decision last September to eliminate anonymous comments on stories on our website by requiring users to log into their Facebook accounts was made after a great deal of consideration.

We did so to restore civil discourse. For years we tried dealing with those who were abusive. We aggressively monitored posts to weed them out and banned incessant violators’ accounts, but they would often just pop up again with a different account.

In print, our policy has long been to ensure that those who write letters to the editor in The Tribune sign their names and note their hometowns. We had offered a different policy for online commenters because the environment afforded individuals an opportunity to give and take immediately.

Ultimately, however, we concluded that civil discourse is best served by creating a safe space for our audience, regardless of whether it’s in print or online. Although we have fewer individuals posting comments now, the conversations are far more respectful. We continue to monitor comments for fake identities, and if we learn of a comment that is offensive, we remove it.

Here’s how to report an inappropriate or abusive comment online: Hover over the upper right corner of the comment until an “X” appears. Then click the “X” and choose one of the options to report a comment as spam or abuse. The comment will be removed from your view. Facebook does track abuse reports and automatically bans users who are consistently abusive.

Q: Inside your paper you have a fine little column called “Good News.” Couldn’t you put good news on the front page and print all the nasty stuff, violence and guns further back if at all? — Roger Osbaldeston, San Luis Obispo

A: I appreciate your point of view, but we believe that the front page of The Tribune (as well as the home page of our website) should be a mix of in-depth, fresh and relevant news stories — whether it’s a sales tax hike, tragic shooting or inspiring individual. Each day we carefully deliberate our story choices, making sure we select what we think are the most significant, pertinent stories of the day — without overloading readers with tragic news.

We have no intention of becoming a sensational tabloid. We publish only a few of the horrific crimes that occur worldwide, for example, typically when they happen nearby such as the UCSB Isla Vista rampage, when there’s a mass murder or when they are especially unusual or reflect a breakdown in our criminal system.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our website or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112, or email me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com. Follow me on Twitter @SandraDuerr.

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