No comments, please, we’re SDSU

Opinionated viewers are invited to use Twitter and Facebook

What does KPBS philanthropist Irwin Jacobs have to say about the station’s decision to eliminate website comments? Perhaps “no comment.”
  • What does KPBS philanthropist Irwin Jacobs have to say about the station’s decision to eliminate website comments? Perhaps “no comment.”

San Diego State University’s KPBS broadcasting operation is suddenly slamming the door on website comments, some of which have questioned the political direction of the station whose newsroom is named after billionaire Democrat contributor Irwin Jacobs. “It’s time for us to move the conversation away from the website comments section, where only 0.3 percent of our online visitors engage,” says an April 7 announcement by the stations. “Since KPBS first launched its online comments section in 2009, the world of social media has changed dramatically, as has KPBS’ digital presence. In this spirit, we will continue to create the best dialogue with you in the hopes of deepening our relationship.”

The school suggests that its opinionated viewers migrate to Twitter and Facebook. “In addition to our station’s social media accounts, you can engage with our news gathering by joining ‘KPBS Become a Source,’ where we reach out to those who sign up for story input and sometimes interviews.” If that doesn’t satisfy commenters’ wishes for self-expression, “KPBS journalists regularly use their personal channels to discuss their work. You can find their Twitter handles on the KPBS Staff Page.”

As the university has encountered multiple controversies — including the future of SDSU football at Qualcomm Stadium and a series of sexual molestation cases — managers led by Tom Karlo, with an annual state-funded salary and benefit package worth $309,883, have been hard pressed to answer online critics of the stations’ uneven news coverage. Other unflattering developments — including a California State University system audit last year critical of exiting SDSU president’s Elliot Hirshman’s handling of the university’s fundraising and charitable spending as well as illegal faculty discounts — have been ignored by KPBS altogether.

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Comments

Sad, and typical of many universities. The admin and faculty claim to want dialogue, but actually avoid it. They speak, you listen and keep quiet in their model. I have had a similar situation with a different large university not far from here. Its "journalistic" effort to keep in touch with alumni suppresses bad news, even when it might be of intense interest to the alumni. That school referred to the mission of the alumni publication as "supporting excellence." Gee, I thought it would have been to inform, and then let the readers reach their own conclusions. Little did I know.

SDSU undoubtedly proclaims its "transparency", yet trying to learn about the true state of affairs on that campus is nearly impossible. If transparency is like looking at the world through muddy water, SDSU has it in spades.

It's one thing to disable comments going forward, but to delete the whole history of content users provided over the years is outrageous and, frankly, chilling. It smacks of our nation's current Executive Branch deleting open source databases and other information from government websites.

On a possibly related issue, I discovered while checking the KPBS.org website how ineffective and/or censored is their internal search engine. For example, looking up "community plan" on their site generates 219 hits—none in the last year. Using Google directly to search them pulls up about 523, 17 from the past year. I invite others to check for themselves using different topics. This has been a chronic problem with the city's website; but then, they're dedicated to keeping information difficult to find.

And then there is also the "Wayback Machine" which is an amazing resource to dig up what was on a website when the scoundrels try to scrub their cached history.

It's true that KPBS got little feedback on its website, though entirely eliminating direct online comment seems craven for an alleged news organization. Twitter and facebook work as public comment filters, and it is hilarious that the station offers "Become a Source" as an alternative to actual critical input from listeners and viewers. (Maybe the recent interminable spring fund drove the switchover.)

And this is why I stopped contributing money to KPBS every year and removed them as one of the beneficiaries of my trust (I have no heirs). I am a prolific commenter on several websites; on some using a pseudonym and many using my Facebook or an account with my real name.

KPBS banned me for comments that did not stray from their terms of service, but they did not like my comments anyway. So, I stopped giving and consider them a censor of my First Amendment right. Comments made freedom of speech better in the age of the Internet because it is like getting your letter to the editor published without them picking and choosing. KPBS wants to pick and choose the narrative and that is censoring.

I still enjoy watching KPBS and feel a little guilty for not paying for my viewership, but will not support a suppressor of free speech. On a college campus no less, this censor of free speech should be ashamed of itself.

That's great, a local billionaire has his name on a "Public Television" property. Did Jacobs go non-profit or is he just putting his name on something he donated 1 millionth of his net worth to? SDSU and KPBS have both been disappointments in the recent past. Public TV seems to run as many commercials as broadcast tv. WTF?

Unlike the Reader, KPBS did not have a comment operation. That was handled by the infamous Disqus ( https://disqus.com/ ) who is happy to sign you up at many sites and allow you to comment. What they do with your information is not clear, but presumably they have buyers. This kind of service is typically free to the web site because of the trove of data it provides. KPBS might have had more and better comments if it didn't require signing up with Disqus.

I was getting a daily RSS news feed from KPBS for the last year or two. That too suddenly ended without warning or explanation around April 12. My emails to the station about it have been ignored. I haven't checked whether their daily podcast is shut down.

omphaloskepsis often

I just discovered there are other RSS feeds for KPBS. These are very convenient- they dump news summaries into your email program that you can read at your leisure. No need to sit through a long audio podcast. Setting it up is a bit technical but don't be afraid.

Midday edition: http://feedpress.me/kpbs-podcast-midday-edition

Roundtable: http://feedpress.me/kpbs-podcast-roundtable

News: http://feedpress.me/kpbs-san-diego-stories

There are also RSS feeds for CityBeat and probably the Reader. Save an hour a day with these. You'll be better informed and still have time to get some sleep.

omphaloskepsis often

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