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The Washington City Paper’s story on the recent e-mail flurry in Mount Pleasant (City Desk, 12/10) portrayed Laurie Collins as a champion of free speech. What writer Elissa Silverman didn’t report was how and why Collins’ complaint ended up in the mailbox of more than 1,000 Mount Pleasant Forum subscribers.
The Mount Pleasant Forum is a moderated, newsletter-style community e-mail list that comes out twice a week. Rob Frazier, who owns and runs it, reserves the right to edit—with permission—content that he deems libelous or destructive to the forum’s community-building mission. Thus, when forum subscribers disagree with something, we have the opportunity to submit a posting and have it moderated and distributed on a biweekly basis. Likewise, if we have an event to announce, we must follow these procedures and be subjected to this time frame.
The same rules do not apply to Laurie Collins or the Mount Pleasant Neighbors Alliance, of which she is president. Why? Because Collins owns the server, LCSystems, through which the forum is distributed. Collins can supersede moderation and submission deadlines to announce her organization’s caroling parties and meetings at the click of a button. Likewise, if she wants to attack a neighborhood business or rally people to attend a hearing about something she cares about, she transforms the forum into her own personal mailing list. This is what happened the week mentioned in the article.
Basically, it’s as if the owner of the company that prints the City Paper decided to make and distribute, along with the paper’s regular print run, its own special insert—announcing its events, airing its personal grievances, attacking the paper’s editors, and printing unedited versions of City Paper stories.
Whether one thinks administrator Rob Frazier’s editorial choices are censorship or responsible moderation is beside the point.The bigger story is that Mount Pleasant residents signed up for a moderated list only to find that one person uses her exclusive access to our names and addresses as a tool for her own personal interests. It’s really too bad that Silverman’s story uncritically extended Laurie Collins’ privilege even further and gave her an even bigger forum to air her personal vendetta, all while portraying her as some sort of hero of the First Amendment.