***Update 5/13/08***: The Augusta Chronicle now reports that a 16-year old suspect has been charged in Reader's murder. Earlier today, the paper wrote that a 19-year old suspect was being searched for. Several comments on that story have been flagged and removed. There are more that should never have been allowed, including one accusing Reader of being a drug dealer. Let he who is without blame cast the first stone, y'all.
Thanks to those who have written after finding this blog through Reader's tragedy, and my condolences for your loss.
**Original post** Earlier today, the most-discussed story in the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle was "Cellist, 26, is shot to death in his car." David Reader was the principal cellist of the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and was found dead with two gunshot wounds in his chest. "Discussed" is a relative term that doesn't always connote an examination or a debate, and the headline should have read "Cellist shot to death," but let's leave that second infelicity aside, since it didn't lead to accusations that Reader was a drug abuser who should've known better than to buy drugs.
Soon after it was posted, the commenters began claiming that Reader should not have been in the apartment complex at that time of night ('round midnight), that he should have expected to "get bitten" if he hung out in such a "snake pit," and another supposing that he may not have been buying drugs but leaving "his mothers or babies mothers house" [sic, applied to almost every word, including the pronoun, in that last quotation]. Then there were those who tried to show pity for dealing with his "demons" and how sad it is that people have to deal with that sort of thing.
Again, the papers' editors should take a stand and declare anonymous comments off-limits. The Chronicle's comments policy states that the paper cannot monitor every comment, and there is a feature in place for readers to flag appropriate commentary. But the paper asks, with a completely straight face, for readers not to post material that is
"defamatory, threatening, disparaging, grossly inflammatory, false, misleading, fraudulent, inaccurate, unfair, contains gross exaggeration or unsubstantiated claims, violates the privacy rights of any third party, is unreasonably harmful or offensive to any individual, community, association, group or business." (emphasis added)
But beyond that, it's simply disrepectful. What possible purpose is served by letting readers air their theories and feelings on how a murder victim died? I know a lot of musicians, and I know a lot of drug abusers, but I can't imagine that allows me or anyone else to claim that their deaths could somehow be justified. The police now think that Reader was involved in a drug sale that went bad, but it almost doesn't matter. His reputation had already been shot, and more than twice.
I could write more about this, but it's just too depressing to contemplate. I know it will never hold up in court, but I propose these new, streamlined guidelines for reader comments:
1) They have real names attached.
2) They assume the privacy of private citizens covered by the newspaper is as valuable as their own.
3) If the above aren't followed, two burly men will come over to your house. One will hold you down, and the other will surf for child pornography, entering your credit card number and email address as necessary, until the FBI arrives.
I know I haven't been blogging much lately. It's been a little crazy around the office, you may have heard. But I'll do my darndest to get back to the music-blogging soon, and not play media critic or architecture photojournalist so often. Proof? Flight of the Conchords video right here. Yes, Bret does got it going on.