The week in comments: A faux-flash mob; cotton ball fury; City Council seating and art

Sunday, March 7, 2010 | 6:53 p.m. CST; updated 11:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Every week, readers of offer their opinions on the news and the Missourian's coverage of it. Here, we offer you a digest of some of the conversations we found most interesting. Click any of the links to join in.

Update: Two MU students arrested in Black Culture Center incident

Comments: 13 / Commenters: 11

When the Missourian published this story, it included the names of the two students who were arrested and a description of where each student lived. Some readers thought this "bordered on negligence."

Patrick Hunley expressed concern that printing the addresses would take someone one step closer to "retaliatory action." Reader Kaitlin Warner agreed and wrote, "Publishing their places of residence simply added insubstantial information that was by no means vital to the message this story should have brought to readers."

Missourian opinion editor Jake Sherlock explained the newspaper's policy that printing addresses provides more information to prevent mistaken identity, and that the Missourian had only provided "a general description" of where they lived, not their room or apartment numbers.

But other readers and Hunley noted there are many other things that could have been used to distinguish the young men — for example, their participation in Naval ROTC at MU. Claire Hanan agreed and wrote, "their names and pictures should have sufficed to give readers a sense of their identities."

Guest Commentary: Cotton balls at Black Culture Center show racism still very much alive at MU

Comments: 8 / Commenters: 8

Students and readers alike were upset at the cotton ball incident that took place on Feb. 26. One graduate student, Jennifer Wilmot, suggested in her commentary that the incident was not an isolated one on this campus and calls for an open conversation about race and ethnicity.

Some readers, such as Aaron Ferguson, agreed saying it was a mean and hurtful thing that was done, but that the perpetrators might not be exactly who many expect. "It's an easy prank: spend $3 on some cotton balls, quickly place them all around and run off."

Jessica Allen, on the other hand, agreed that the incident wasn't an isolated one and was glad that point was brought up. 

2 MU students arrested in cotton ball incident

Comments: 4 / Commenters: 3

A debate has begun in light of the arrest of two students in connection with the cotton ball incident. The two were arrested for suspicion of tampering in the second degree and a hate crime, which carries heavier consequences.

Some readers agree with the charges, but others think they are overkill.

Clint Fitzgerald said, "To charge these young men with a hate crime for this would be like charging the tea party activists with a hate crime against the British for patronizing TEA."

Joe Donaldson criticized such comments, saying that it was in fact a hate crime.

Only four comments relating to the cotton ball incident were removed in the last seven days. In all cases, the removal was because the comments violated the Missourian's policy that all posts must be made under a person's real name.

Flash mob planned for MU-KU game to attract Google

Comments: 8 / Commenters: 4

A group of community members planned to participate in a flash mob during the second half of the game. The participants planned to hold up signs welcoming Google to Columbia in an attempt to get Google's fiber-optic broadband trial service.

Some readers, such as Glenn Rice, did not think the event qualified as a "flash mob" because of its less-than-spontaneous nature. Rice instead labeled it a "publicity stunt." Dustin Dean pointed out that Topeka held a flash mob in February, thus beating Columbia to the bunch.

Despite negative feedback, Scott Wendling, the event's organizer, remained optimistic, stating that the Topeka flash mob was "not too impressive" as it only involved 100 people. He also said that "there's nothing wrong w/ publicity stunts" and "It's a publicity stunt to get national attention in our efforts to attract Google Fiber to our community."

Columbia council chambers' 'The Pony Express Rider' placed in storage

Comments: 5 / Commenters: 5

"The Pony Express Rider," a Buk Ulreich painting that used to hang in the City Council chambers, is currently awaiting restoration in a warehouse. It seems unlikely the painting will once again adorn the council chambers.

Readers voiced their displeasure at the idea the painting no longer being part of their city. Marion Webb said that it was a "shame." John M. Nowell III said, "I suppose that the statues at the library are 'more pleasing to the eye' to the members of the city council than something that celebrates local history and Columbia artists." Larry Carpenter said he wished the painting had stayed up during the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, which is this year.

COLUMN: Reconciliation wrong in the past, wrong today in health care

Comments: 6 / Commenters: 4

J. Karl Miller's opinion piece was about how invoking reconciliation to push legislation is dangerous and wrong. He argued that Senate rules are in place for important reasons and should not be overturned for any reason, especially not for the health care bill.

Readers called into question Miller's opinion and also the facts that he based them on. Christopher Foote said he thought Miller was misrepresenting quotes from Obama and brought into question previous uses of the reconciliation rule, asking Miller "if he thinks it was wrong to use reconciliation in 2001 and 2003 to pass large tax cuts that resulted in significant deficits?" Other readers interjected with their opinions and facts garnered, while Miller responded to Foote saying, "I do appreciate that you take the time to read my column and that you see fit to comment. I might also point out that if you and I agreed on every point, one of us is unnecessary."

City Council to let mayor decide meeting seating

Comments: 3 / Commenters: 3

A unanimous decision by the Columbia City Council allowing Mayor Darwin Hindman to change the seating of the council passed Monday. The issue was raised because City Manager Bill Watkins currently sits in the middle of council even though he serves at their discretion.

John Schultz started off the discussion by referencing a meeting mentioned in the story and asking whether "this 'compromise in an informal meeting' amounts to a violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law?" Two other readers commended the actions by the council and said they wished it had been done sooner.

Three suspects flee scene after robbery at Forest Village Apartments

Comments: 3 / Commenters: 3

During a robbery on Sunday evening at Forest Village Apartments, a woman was held up at gunpoint by one man and her purse was stolen. The suspect was then joined by two other men, one of whom also had a gun before fleeing the scene.

Reader Rob Thompson questioned the reporting done by the Missourian's Doug Davis. "Mr Davis, you forgot to mention that these were Black men who held up the victim. You get a 'F' for your shoddy reporting, or did you leave out that 'tiny' tidbit on purpose?" Davis responded, "The Missourian's policy for describing at-large suspects in crimes is to have at least three other identifying characteristics, such as weight, height, age, hair color and length, scars and tattoos, before publishing the race of a suspect." Another reader said, "Columbia is becoming a scary place to live."

LETTER: Downtown cameras will prevent crime

Comments: 3 / Commenters: 2

In a letter to the editor, Scott and Cheryl Orr of Columbia urged readers "to vote 'yes' to cameras" in downtown Columbia, citing the Adam Taylor incident as a positive example of their use. 

Two readers, Glenn Rice and Liz Mitchell, voiced their skepticism that cameras deter crime. Rice said, "Cameras do have downsides — they cost money and jobs, and they spy on the innocent and criminal alike." Mitchell echoed that sentiment and raised the question about whether "the loss of privacy and the potential future use or misuse of footage that must be preserved by law be worth it even if a few more cases were actually to be solved?"

LETTER: Downtown cameras will help local government keep citizens safe

Comments: 2 / Commenters: 2

In a letter to the editor, Jan Becket stated she would be voting 'yes' on Proposition One, as she thinks the cameras will enhance public safety. Becket referenced a public statement from Ken Burton, saying the cameras have a deterrent effect on crime.

Glenn Rice was not confident in Burton's statement, saying, "the deterrent effect of cameras is based on his 'intuition' rather than any actual data regarding their effectiveness." Rice also noted that "Chief Burton had also publicly stated that he'd rather have another officer than cameras."

Liz Mitchell also voiced her opinion about the proposition. Mitchell stated she had "a problem with both the efficacy issue." She continued to outline her thoughts on the cameras, ending by stating she will be voting against Proposition One.

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