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A moment of silence?


Site comments trigger concerns



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May 12, 2010 | 08:48 AM
Geneva — It was one inappropriate comment too many for Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale on the Regional News Web site. That's why he may no longer grant interviews to the newspaper.

On Sunday afternoon, someone posted a comment of a sexual nature in reference to a Geneva Township woman who was quoted in a Regional News story. She also had posted numerous comments on the Web site. But less than an hour later, Lauderdale announced on the site he will enter a "lack of comment phase" and urged people to cancel their Regional News subscriptions.

The inappropriate comment was removed Sunday night. However, shortly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning at the south shore boat launch on Lake Como, Lauderdale said he is undecided on whether he will continue to provide comments and share information with the Regional News.

Lauderdale said it depends on whether the newspaper changes its guidelines concerning the posting of comments to stories on its Web site, www.lakegenevanews.net. "Certainly, something has to be done with controlling these comments," he said. "I don't think that's asking a lot."

At 3:41 p.m. Sunday, someone using the tag "Uranus" posted a comment about Cass Kordecki, a township woman attempting to change an ordinance regarding short-term rentals in Walworth County. Lauderdale posted the following comment Sunday at 4:28 p.m.: "To whomever is responsible for allowing open-ended blog comments Ö I am done subscribing to the Lake Geneva Regional News and am done visiting this blog section until such time as you are able to maintain control. I would also hope that others will cancel their subscriptions and participation with Lake Geneva Regional News in the meantime. This has really gotten to be bothersome and very much out of hand."

Regional News Editor Lisa Seiser said she removed the inappropriate comment after she discovered it Sunday evening.

"In order to allow for the most open discussions, comments immediately are posted without approval from the Regional News," she stated in a comment posted Sunday at 9:59 p.m. "This is a decision we made many months ago and only have had a few issues with it (despite) thousands and thousands of comments we have received. We hope people are thoughtful and respectful in their postings, but sometimes comments do get out of hand. Just like anything else, that's the price we pay for allowing this freedom."

On Monday, Lauderdale said he wants the Regional News to require people to register before they submit comments.

Verbiage was added Monday on the comment form reminding people they can be held accountable for what they write and IP addresses be provided to those who seek damages.

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"We still do not want to limit comments or require registration as we believe it limits the comments made," she stated Sunday. "We still can identify those who are making the comments based on IP addresses and will deal with any problems in the future regarding inappropriate posts. However, we hope our posters police themselves and each other and comment appropriately on the topics."

On Monday, Lauderdale said he usually doesn't visit other blogs or newspaper Web sites because the Regional News is the official publication for the town of Geneva. Lauderdale said he wanted to read about the short-term rental issue because it's important. That's when he saw the comment against Kordecki.

"I just think that one of my obligations is to look out for the reputation and well-being of the citizens in the community," he said.

Lauderdale added he feels Kordecki is going about the issue "the right way" and didn't deserve such a comment.

The chairman himself has been the subject of negative comments on the site, but the most talked-about town officials these days is Police Chief Ed Gritzner. Recently, Gritzner was suspended for one day because of his conduct over the telephone toward a business owner. He also has received criticism in reference to the ongoing criminal case against former town police Sgt. Rob Haase.

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"These issues are sensitive in nature," Lauderdale said. "Providing for a trial-by-blog sanctions interference with more efficient ways to handle these situations."

However, Lauderdale said he likes the current working relationship he has with the Regional News and wants to continue openly informing the public, which he believes is something other area elected officials don't do. He also said there are no plans yet to change the Regional News as the town's official publication.

"I just hope to see progress soon," Lauderdale said. "It can't be a free-for-all with these comments."

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