Category Archives: Modern Media

On Politics and Sock Puppets

Here’s a blog post that we, as a newsroom staff, have been working on for more than a month. The delay in posting it reflects the care we took to weigh an appropriate response to a specific incident or rather series of incidents. At one point we thought it might dictate some sort of policy about blog comments. In the end, it became more of a philosophical issue, one on which we invite you to weigh in.

After I wrote about McCormick Woods a few months ago, Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola commented on this blog to clarify his position on what he thought was a critical story. His response was followed by several other comments in his defense, several under the screen names ‘Gumshoe’ and ‘LocalPoliticalJunkie.’

At least one other reader noticed similarities in tone and word choice between those two users and Coppola, both on that blog entry and elsewhere, including Coppola’s personal blog, which he has since (as of Dec. 1) turned over to guest writers.

We thought the similarities suspicious as well, and checked on where the posts were coming from.

We can’t get specific detail on a commentor’s residence from the registration form our users submit, nor can we even confirm the identity they use when they register. People comment anonymously on our site, and we allow that. But we can check the Internet Protocol Address of each user, which is a unique number for a computer or network hosting a number of computers. Using the IP address, our system can give general details, such as a residence in Port Orchard, or a government building. We don’t regularly check the IP addresses of users, but we can, and so we looked at those being used by Gumshoe and LocalPoliticalJunkie.

Their IP addresses matched the one used by Lary Coppola, who had registered and posted under his own name. That gave some credence to the suspicion that all three online users were the same person. We asked the mayor about it, and he said it wasn’t him. He didn’t have an explanation for why the IP addresses would be the same, but said he suspected the others were copying material from his personal website and using them on the blog here.

We can’t confirm Lary is either one of the other posters, but, in light of the evidence we found and his response, whether to report on our discovery became a protracted discussion in the newsroom. It’s an issue we haven’t come upon in the past, but as the nature of journalism moves increasingly online, it’s sure to come up again. So we’ve decided to bring it up now, even though we have seen little of gumshoe or LocalPoliticalJunkie over the past month.

There’s nothing explicitly wrong with readers using more than one screen name to register at kitsapsun.com. There is no law against using a second online identity to support comments you’ve posted using your first online identity (known in the online community as “using a sock puppet“). But the idea of an elected official doing so bothers us.

What would happen, for example, if a public official began to post misinformation on an upcoming vote, or a candidate for public office acted under many personalities in the course of campaigning? That doesn’t seem like behavior voters would look for in a public servant.

People are going to manipulate the system at some time, on some level, and there’s too much information and opinion out there to catch it all. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be skeptical at the appearance of such behavior.

We think elected officials should be held to a higher level of transparency in this new age of communication. Do you agree?

On a final note, we commend Lary for the comments he has made as a Mayor of Port Orchard. He is one of the few Kitsap officials to take part in the public conversation on the blogs, and we would encourage others to follow his lead.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
David Nelson, Editor

The Future of Newspapers is in Your Hands

Or at least it could be for $359. That’s how much the Kindle, from Amazon.com costs.

Kindle
On the market just shy of one year, the Kindle, and products like it, allow readers to download books, news articles and blogs. A book download costs $9.99. The display on the device is like the page of a book or newspaper, and according to the ads, looks pretty easy-to-read, even for old eyes like mine. Smaller than many paperbacks, the device weighs just over 10 ounces.

This isn’t an ad for Kindle. I just think it’s interesting how quickly products like this, that were predicted as the future of reading just a few short years ago by my estimation, are now a reality.

Best of all, here’s something you can actually bring into the bathroom with you. Can’t wrap a fish in it, however, and if you try to smack the dog with it they might call the ASPCA. Or else the thing would break and you’d be out $359 … a pretty expensive house-training device.

Monday 7:20 a.m.: By the way, here’s a list of the 28 newspaper Web sites you can get – for now – on Kindle, mostly heavy hitters like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other major metropolitan papers. There are also foreign publications, like Le Monde.

Setting Priorities on the South Kitsap Beat

It happens every year about this time, the leaves fall, Election Day comes and goes, and newspapers cut their budgets because of continuing massive changes in the media industry.

For the third year in a row, our staffing has been reduced. This time, 26 jobs are being eliminated across all departments, including 14 vacant positions that will now go unfilled.
The newsroom will lose 6.5 positions (including two managerial positions). The cuts will
take effect between now and the end of the year.

Like other “newspapers” we are caught up in the shift to Web publication as more and more people get their news online. It’s kind of like bailing a leaky dinghy while building a yacht.

In a syndrome played out in newsrooms across the nation, we grieve the loss of talented colleagues who are also our friends, and we wonder how we will keep the ship afloat with fewer hands to bail and build.

In a strange way, it is also exhilarating. While we’re not exactly in crisis mode, urgency creates clarity. Clearly our priority must be local news.

Looking ahead to the upcoming year, I’d like your ideas on what local issues are most important to you. Feel free to be honest about things that may have slipped through the cracks. I can’t promise I’ll get to everything you suggest, but I will do my best to respond to your priorities.

With changes in the media industry, there is a growing role for you as readers.

I grew up in a Walter Cronkite world, where, much as we who are now called Boomers hated to admit it, age equals experience equals gravitas. Thanks to the Internet, however, the concept of hierarchy is eroding at an exponential rate. Today’s youth, the almighty “target demographic,” has no idea what “seniority” means … thinks it might be a condition of aging … has to look it up on Wikipedia.

Through blogs and story comments, reporters and readers interact to form a collective body of knowledge about our community that describes who we are in a way that the old model of newspapers couldn’t touch.

With that in mind, here’s what’s on my radar. Let me know what you think, where you’d like less or more.

Aspects of SK I have been covering: The City of Port Orchard, South Kitsap School District, South Kitsap Regional Park and SK recreation in general, Port of Manchester, South Kitsap people and events, SK related elections, North Mason School District. County issues are generally covered by political reporter Steve Gardner, unless its an issue specific to SK.

In the upcoming year, I’d like to do more stories on communities that haven’t gotten a lot of press: Olalla and Southworth for example.

I’ll need to keep an eye on growth, especially in the City of Port Orchard, which is in the process of annexing a number of commercial properties including Fred Meyer. Also on the Bethel corridor.

I expect the economy will be an ongoing theme. Let me know how it’s playing out in your family or business.

I have a personal interest in youth and senior citizens, and I’d like to do more on these two groups.

I expect eating and buying locally will be themes in these tough economic times, when local business can use a boost and with the memory of $4 a gallon gas still fresh in our minds.

I’m always open to a good feature story (the quirkier the better).

So stay in touch, and thanks in advance for your contributions to the South Kitsap beat.

Addendum 3:45 p.m.: Guess I should have signed this, Chris Henry South Kitsap reporter

Karcher Creek Sewer District Story Hits the Air Waves

Update 9:45 a.m. Aug. 10 (see below) – Chris Henry

The Kitsap Sun’s environmental reporter Chris Dunagan has apparently found a new fan in Seattle talk show host Dori Monson.

On Wednesday, Monson and his KIRO radio guests discussed Dunagan’s story that ran Sunday about the removal of geese from the Tracyton waterfront, a move that angered at least one resident.

Today Monson picked up on Dunagan’s story about Karcher Creek Sewer District Commissioners, who have agreed to pay back $2,700 in expenses they incurred at the end of an 18-day European trip to investigate advanced sewage-treatment systems.

The announcement of the repayment was made Wednesday after Gene David Hart of Bremerton filed a complaint about the expenses with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Apparently Kitsap County is fertile ground for stories that are off-beat (yet issue-oriented) enough to appeal to Monson and his fans.

Update: In a follow up story, Chris Dunagan wrote about state Auditor Brian Sonntag’s take on Karcher Creek Goes to Europe. Read the story here.