Staletovich: is there a worse punishment than TalkBack?

Dateline: Wed 02 Jan 2008

Some blogs, including some very respectable ones, do not have a "comments" section. The reason is because of the trolls and idiots on the 'Net who rush in, under cover (there's that word again), scrawl some inflammatory nonsense and go out the back door. It's the same reason there are some bathroom walls on which it is impossible to smear graffiti; it is simply not civilized, and respectable joints won't tolerate it.

So it comes to pass that there are, as of this writing, 240 comments over at IndyStar's "TalkBack" regarding the weekend arrest of Sgt. Steve Staletovich of IMPD for DUI. (Thanks to Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana for alerting me yesterday about this story, and for posting about it himself.)

Here's the Star's article -- Staletovich was busted early Jan. 1 in Sheridan in Hamilton County. His blood alcohol level was .08:

The comments I've read are hardly examples of the worst that has been on TalkBack, which often runs hate speech (racist, mean-spirited, angry, inflammatory, and sometimes, it seems, libelous cracks). Still, I did not have to go far to find the below on TalkBack, from a commentator who calls him/herself: "Indyissoghetto", slamming all police and in particular this officer with 23 years of service:

"Nothing ever comes from this sort of thing. How many times has he "badged" his way out of a DUI? They do it ALL THE TIME. And for other things to, things ALLOT worse {soliciting a prostitute}. There are two standards of the law, one for the police, and one for everybody else. They abuse their badge like it was some kind of fringe benefit. Hats off to Seridan, where no one is above the law."

I'm a great fan of free speech and the first amendment, but the TalkBack function at the Star is ridiculous. It's an anything goes mentality, and the Star is too big -- and presumably too responsible -- to permit such drivel.

As for Staletovich, many of us who toiled in newsrooms and other media outlets know him to be a good guy. He plays fair, he is fast, he is accurate. I am told he pissed off the sheriff and the police chief a while back, when he wrote a letter to the editor of the Star criticizing the new police uniforms. I hear he was a critic of the merger, and I know he liked to talk.

But writing a letter to the editor took guts. He signed his name. So should the goofy posters at TalkBack, but they apparently don't have the character.

Addendum: I am grateful to those who read this blog, and comment, for your good manners and carefully expressed, insightful thoughts. Small blogs, like this one, are, I hope, virtual parlor rooms for polite discourse. I've only had to censor one comment since starting in 2006. Not a bad record. Again, I fail to see how the Star's TalkBack can score points with serious readers. It's an idea that has failed.


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