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why portland indymedia hid posts about the Eagle Creek fatality

this topic is still open to discussion obviously, but here is the opening word.
portland indymedia rarely hides stories from the newswire. Our Editorial Policy allows us to remove or hide posts that contain illegal speech, are duplicates, or interfere with the technical functionality of the site. However, we broke with this policy in the case of three posts about this story at the request of CFA, because they had been unable to contact the woman's family at that time. The decision to hide these posts was questioned both within the editorial group and by people on the newswire. For the record then, this was an extraordinary circumstance and is not business as usual. We encourage readers to please continue to ask questions anytime a post is hidden. Any action we take should be able to withstand the light of day.

Here are the posts that were hidden: [ "Fatality at Eagle Creek" | "death at eagle creek" | "tree sitter dies in fall from platform" ]

That's correct journalistic behavior 14.Apr.2002 08:29

Mike stepbystepfarm@shaysent.com

It is both standard and correct journalistic behavior to do this, to withhold the names of victims until one is sure the family has been notified. NOT "censorship".

Look folks, at the present time (ie: state of IndyMedia, editorial staffing, etc.) there is little else that could be done except delaying the appearance of the entire stories. In the "professional" journalistic world, an editor would have simply removed the name (sticking in a "name withheld pending notification of kin" -- but the "reporter" KNOWS that whatever he/she submits was going to be edited before publication. Here we assume that whatever we write will be published "as is" and NOT first edited by somebody else. Since I believe most folks want THAT to remain in effect, the only reasonable option for the editorial collective is to delay the entire story.

SUGGESTION: In cases like this (or any other editorial action involving non-publication/removal) how about the following rule. IF the posting is NOT anonymous (ie: if posted with a valid email address) then the editorial group notifies the poster (ie: reason) and nobody is to complain "my posting was hidden" until at least 24 hours have elapsed. Anonymous posting should be allowed, but anonymous posters muct recognize that because they have provided no means to be contacted, the editorial group cannot notify them of "why" and they must assume that the reason was valid.

Are You Stupid 14.Apr.2002 08:45


None of the hidden posts mentioned names.

in my 'sensitive' opinion... 14.Apr.2002 09:16

sensitive girl

i feel that the post could have remained as it was, untouched, unhidden, simply because it did not contain any names or information that would have leaked to the family or friends, and thus caused harm to them.

time to rework the editorial policy? 14.Apr.2002 12:09

Jeremy David Stolen fellowtraveler@riseup.net

This is not the first time that hiding posts, or the suggestion of hiding posts, has caused controversy. Currently, the portland indy editorial committee is considering the requests of another activist organization in town to hide posts that they consider slanderous. No clear consensus on the matter has been reached yet, although there's been much discussion.

I think it's time to reconsider the editorial policy, and rework it so that we hide only two kinds of posts:

1. duplicates (because they take up space on the newswire and move other posts off the front page)

2. posts that affect the functionality of the site (purposeful hacking or accidents in formatting)

Anything besides these two is subjective, way too subjective to have a clear answer.

indymedia is not so much a news site in the traditional sense as it is an anarchist free speech experiment. I believe it would be a good idea to return to that principle by stripping the editorial policy down to only these functional concerns.

The posts about the fallen tree-sitter yesterday were hidden in order to be sensitive to the concerns of friends. While I am not in favor of being callous, I am seeing from the reaction here that such sensitivity might have no place on indymedia.

I believe such a change in policy would be best accompanied by a clear disclaimer ont he site (such as sf indy uses) that says something along the lines of, "portland indymedia is not responsible for content posted to the open publishing newswire."

Such a policy will upset other members of the community who want us to hide racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. posts or material that they find slanderous. But in the interest of a completely open and free forum, that would be the price we would pay.

I guess you could say I've learned a lesson from this situation. I've thought about these issues since I first got involved in indymedia (summer 2000, in Mpls/St. Paul), have always had mixed feelings and been able to see both sides of the debate, and have never read an editorial policy that I fully support, including portland's. While I would not enjoy turning down a request such as CFA made to us yesterday, I suppose that would be the best policy for the future. I hope that groups like CFA and others will be able to understand and still support indymedia if we decide that we must always turn down such requests.

The Editorial policy is sound 14.Apr.2002 13:28


This is a very important story. Media, independent and otherwise, have a responsibility to tell us what is going on in important circumstances like this. However, instsnt reporting is not always the best way to procede.

Anyone who had friends or reletives at the tree-sit could have been caused serious worry. CFA could have been bombarded with phone calls by concerned family and friends, reducing their ability to deal with the matter in a sensitive matter.

It also has to deal with the idea of duplicate posts. As everyone slowly learns news, then they decide to post what little they have learned, adding up to many posts about the same subject.

Finally, there is the idea of not just running with a story before all the facts are in. That's the hallmark of untrustworthy television media. I would like to think that we are all above that.

There is also the issue of slander (different story, but the alledgedly slandered want the story hidden). I would hope that those of us who get our news here are able to see through baseless slander to the truth. Also, I would think that would be an ideal time for the slandered party to speak up for itself.

As long as everything is reported correctly, sensitively, and in a timely manner; then I stand behind the current editorial policy.


not censorship 15.Apr.2002 10:41


I am a friend of Beth, currently living in New Mexico. I am horrified to think that if I had randomly looked at the portland indymedia page (which I do often to keep up with all my mutant children and their fun activities) and seen that post before anyone called me. The first post went up a mere 24 more minutes after emergency workers were called- two hours before they showed up. I was first called at around 1 AM, and when I got the second call around 3 AM, her father had still not been contacted. Had I seen the post without her name, it would have caused me to panic as well- hoping that it wasn't someone I knew. I'm all for journalistic integrity and not withholding information, but the reality of the situation is that thing that makes indymedia worthwhile is that it is concerned with the community and not with profit. The information was released "officially" in due time anyway- I don't think there was any reason to hurt the community or the individuals involved in the community any more than we already have been from this loss.

Timing 15.Apr.2002 17:33


I hear what you're saying about not wanting to read about a friend dying here, before hearing by telephone.

However, you are wrong about the timing. Look at the hidden posts:

The first post happened just after midnight, local time, on Saturday. Beth fell around 7pm local time on Friday evening. This was not a mere few minutes after the fall, nor was it before the rescue workers had arrived - it was several hours after both of these things, and not until the news had already gone out over the AP wire, local television, and a variety of activist email lists (two that I subscribe to alone).

I am responsible for one of the hidden posts, another person has claimed responsibility for one of them. There were 3 altogether, so presumably they were posted by three separate individuals. These people were using the newswire as it was intended, and sharing something they thought to be very important to activists. When the posts were hidden, people were bound to be concerned about why. Unfortunately, (as so often happens in electronic communications), things became overblown, people started playing off each other, and it got ugly. That's too bad, because the issue involved is neither petty, nor is it in any way disrespectful of the dead for reasonable people to disagree on this.