Letter to the Editor: Bad blog manners
In recent months the fact that media outlets now offer space on their websites for readers to comment on stories and issues has not escaped the view of the Utah High School Activities Association governing board, staff and the entire membership. We write you regarding the alarmingly negative trends in the content of many comments. That negativity seems to escalate daily.
Let us tell you who comprises the UHSAA. We are high school administrators, coaches and activities directors of both public and private schools from every region of the state. Our governing bodies are elected officials who represent 127 member schools that participate in high school sports and activities. Among our responsibilities is the charge to offer opportunities to as many student athletes as possible, and consequently, to make and enforce rules which ensure safe and fair play.
The internet has become an attractive interactive tool for media outlets. Likely this emerging arena of communications will only increase in capability and demand. What we respectfully request is that media outlets adopt parameters for allowing appropriate public comment, especially anonymous public comment, when directed toward high school coaches and administrators and especially toward impressionable high school athletes. In recent months, we've read, with growing concern, of increased numbers of personal attacks that fly in the face of sportsmanship and inclusiveness we aim to provide for students. Incendiary personal criticism leveled at teenage athletes emboldens people under the cloak of anonymity in which there is no accountability for accusations nor allegations.
We do understand the need for feedback, and the attraction of involving readers and viewers in news coverage. Our duty, however, is to ensure safe havens and fair opportunities for students in these life learning laboratories we call sports. Our membership along with families and individuals deal with life affecting, if not altering, circumstances caused by comments that are false, derogatory and vulgar. In the impressionable ages of our participating youth, opinions form, self image develops and insecurities abound; comments that are insulting, defamatory and threatening degrade one of our most precious resources, the emerging adults in our high schools.
We understand and appreciate the heightened efforts made by media outlets to cover high school activities and athletics. Coverage has never been better. High school is a special time for teenagers and their families. None of us want it marred by a few misguided people who degrade and demean from behind the veil of secrecy these websites offer. We plead with media outlets to assume responsibility by eliminating the obscene, untrue and damaging remarks that appear without consequence to the writer. Even though these comments are not printed in papers nor read on newscasts, they are published to thousands of blog readers. Some journalistic standard for accuracy and truth should apply.
We ask others in our workplace to offer solutions rather than to only lode complaints. Accordingly, we offer our resources to aid in developing a protocol that confronts this emerging menace to young people who participate in high school sports. We appeal to you to call on us to assist in this effort. Advise us as to where and how this can be done.