Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: All Press Releases Look Alike

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 12, 2010


You read enough news releases from government offices and they all start to look alike.

In this case, literally.

I’m talking about the recent announcement by Attorney General Gary King’s office that a complaint by King and 33 other attorneys general against Topix.com had been brought to a happy conclusion.

Topix is an online news aggregator that handles reader comments for news sites nationwide. Because of pressure from the AGs, the company agreed to stop its policy of charging nearly $20 to expedite reviews of abusive or potentially libelous comments.

King’s office, in announcing the agreement, said, “On behalf of the numerous parents, public officials, and concerned citizens who have contacted me about Topix.com, I am pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the company to put a stop to the ‘pay-to-police’ policy to expedite removal of abusive posts. I appreciate the cooperation of Topix.com and look forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure that New Mexicans, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts.”

But while Googling around to do some quick research on the issue, I came across a quote from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in PC World, an online publication.

Conway, one of the first AGs to complain against Topix, was quoted saying, “On behalf of the numerous parents, public officials and concerned citizens who have contacted me about Topix, I am pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the company to put a stop to the ‘pay-to-police’ policy on the message board to expedite removal of abusive posts. I appreciate the cooperation of Topix and look forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure that Kentuckians, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts.”

Then I found a virtually identical statement online about the Topix deal from Kansas Attorney General Steve Six.

And something very similar from Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper. He too was speaking on “behalf of the concerned citizens and public officials who have contacted me about Topix.com.” However, Cooper is looking forward to working with Topix “to ensure that our citizens are treated seriously and respectfully in a timely manner.”

Doesn’t he care about ensuring our kids are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts?

Burning issues: Tom Mullins a flag burner? No, nobody’s accusing the conservative Farmington Republican of burning Old Glory in protest.

A Farmington radio personality and gun-store owner who organizes an annual “U.N. flag burning” event said in a radio show, preserved online in a podcast last October, that Mullins, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Ben Ray Luj├ín for his seat in Congress, was there.

“We had a great time at our U.N. flag-burning,” said Cope Reynolds. “... You know Oct. 24 is ‘Get the U.S. Out of the U.N. Day.’ A lot of people call it ‘U.N. Day.’ We just can’t bring ourselves to do that.”

Reynolds went on to name several people who attended the event outside of his store, including Mullins.

Asked about this, Mullins said Wednesday that he didn’t remember any U.N. flag burning. Instead, he said, the event he attended was a “flag retirement ceremony,” a respectful event in which American flags that are tattered are burned.

The U.S. Flag Code says, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Contacted Wednesday, Reynolds said there indeed was a flag-retirement ceremony on the same day. Indeed, in a show prior to last year’s event, Reynolds said people with old flags should bring them to the event for a proper retirement after the U.N. flags were burned.

Mullins said he has some serious problems with the United Nations, which he says is too quick to beat up on the U.S. He said the U.N. needs to be reformed, but said he’s not ready for the U.S. to withdraw from the organization.