About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Want to comment? Sure, but there are standards

In more than 18 months of doing this blog, I have never removed a reader comment. Last week, I removed two of them.

The entrance at the new Falls Run Nursing & Rehabilitation center.

The offending comments were attached to Thursday’s post about the new Falls Run Nursing & Rehabilitation center. One of the comments accused the administrator there of criminal conduct. The other described in harsh terms his personality and managerial skill. The writer conceded that he didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the man; he was simply repeating gossip.

Sorry, not here.

The management of this newspaper has ultimate control over what appears on our web site, but they have given the bloggers a lot of freedom to monitor and edit our own blogs. For me, that means that I will apply the same standards for libel that I work under every day in the print product.

I know that the Internet is a wild-west town where you can say almost anything about anyone. Apparently, even the courts look the other way, saying that those who host a web site are conveyors of information and not responsible for what people say on their sites.

But that’s not the standard in the newspaper. In the paper, we are responsible for our own words and for the words of others. If you injure someone’s reputation in a letter to the editor or in an ad, both you and the newspaper could be held responsible.

As I told my students at the University of Mary Washington, when I taught journalism there, when it comes to libel, truth is an absolute defense. Yet, it’s more complicated than that. If your work is challenged, you must be able to prove that what you said is true. If I accuse someone of criminal conduct, or say something that will damage their professional standing, I better be able to prove it. That means that I will have documents in hand, or I will rely on the testimony of someone in the know who is willing to repeat in court what he or she told me.

So, on this blog, if you want to accuse someone of violating the law or gross incompetence, let me know first. I’ll probably ask to see your evidence.


  • http://blogs Der Arzt

    all of these kinds of problems, on this blog & all others, would certainly be different if folks could not rant & rave anonymously.

  • scottintheburg

    I read the post that was deleted that was written by a family member who was quite unhappy with Mr. Lyons’ treatment of them and their father who was a patient. I agree that they should not have posted it here. Rather they should have reported him to the state, hired an attorney and buried him in litigation if it is in fact true. This isn’t the place to air those grievances, and if the allegations are true the best thing that can be done is to use the system to remove this person from their position, not gripe about it online.

  • Joe

    Hey Hall! I see your high professional standards don’t prevent you from mentioning the possibly baseless accusations against the administrator here on your blog. Stop hiding behind your high falutin moralizing and admit the truth – you are a great big HYPOCRITE! OOps, guess you’ll delete me now.