Mayor Attacks ‘Hartford Courant’ Comment Forum

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By: E&P Staff

In an open letter dated June 16, Hartford, Conn., mayor Eddie A. Perez called for the Hartford Courant to immediately ban what he called “racist hate speech” in the discussion forums on the paper’s Web site.

The letter, co-signed by two Hartford City Council members, a Connecticut state senator, and three state representatives, also called for Courant publisher Stephen Carter to apologize publicly in addition to banning offensive comments.

The Topix forums on the paper’s Web site allow for readers to add their own written, anonymous comments to stories. Carver said that he would review oversight procedures for the Topix boards, but did not anticipate apologizing. “We will certainly try to perfect the system as we go forward,” he told the Courant. “We don’t promote or foster hate speech.”

Unlike some papers, the Courant does not employ forum moderators to directly oversee the forums, though editors are asked to keep an eye on the forums and delete any unduly abusive exchanges. “We get these things down as soon as we become aware of them,” Carver added. “We pull down the entire thread as it continues to go on.”

Perez’s letter made references to comments made about a May 30 story about a hit-and-run accident that left Hartford resident Angel Arce Torres critically injured. Perez cited comments that called residents of Hartford “barbarians” and referred to the city as “Beirut.”

The letter was sent to several media outlets in Connecticut, as well as to Sam Zell, CEO of Tribune Co., which owns the Courant.

Calls to Carver made by E&P were not immediately returned.

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