Rethinking CRTnet 2: Moderation is a given

Davis Foulger
Submitted to CRTnet; January 9, 2004

Well, the returns are in. With seven responses in two days, six firmly oppose having an editorial board or policy for CRTnet. Ryan Burns indicates that it "is 100% percent antithetical to the spirit of the 'Net." Stephanie Bennett concurs. Jennifer Stromer-Galley feels "it would reduce the range of the conversation." Paul Oehlke worries that "a refereed version of the list might well have discouraged or diminished the prospects for forming our newfound community." Corwin King sees the proposal as an attack on academic freedom. Anastacia Kurylo describes the label with the proposal "editorial censorship". For what its worth, I oppose editorial censorship and attacks on academic freedom too.

Only one problem. CRTnet is already editorially reviewed, and always has been.

CRTnet is not operated as a list, where e-mail is automatically packaged up and forwarded, but as an electronic newsletter, in which a human (currently Jennifer Peltak, who does a great job), reads each incoming submission, decides what category it should go in, and cuts the content of the e-mail and pastes it into the appropriate section of the newsletter. Not every submission is accepted. Threads are occasionally brought to a defacto end, as the "FTAA protests" thread recently was with the editor's note: "Because the posts on this discussion thread have drifted from the NCA convention and rhetoric-related debate to an ideological argument, I will be closing this thread after tomorrow." Not every topic is tolerated. Not a single posting appeared on CRTnet with regard to this past summer's vote on the NCA constitutional amendments. I don't know if any were submitted, but I know that I didn't bother to send any because the topic had already been shut down during the previous vote on the NCA constitutional amendments.

Bottom line, CRTnet is currently being operated under a minimal editorial policy (" Readers are encouraged to contribute abstracts, articles, book reviews, announcements, comments, questions, and discussion on all topics relating to the general area of human communication. ") that has unstated rules and by an editorial staff that (regardless of how good a job they are doing) has no direct accountability to us.

It is my hope that we can move this conversation forward from anarchistic, wild west visions of a CRTnet without rules. With all due respect to JCR Licklider, rules, whether in the form of rules of etiquette or editorial guidelines, inhere to all communication media. We teach as much in our Introductory Communication courses in both Interpersonal and Mass Communication. The issue isn't if rules apply, but what rules apply and how they are enforced. Invisible rules that are invisibly enforced may well be the most effective censorship. Visible rules that are visibly applied can be subject to review, debate, and change.

Right now we don't know what the rules are and therefore can't change them. I think we should change that.