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Freedom of Speech vs Article Rejection

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Today, one of our editors rejected an article, seeing it as not meeting the writing standards of OpEdNews.

The editor felt that the article was sophomoric and mean spirited.

Editors who reject articles are kept anonymous, to protect them from angry, abusive rejectees-- something we decided on after losing a few editors who didn't want to put up with the abuse. So, as I have come to expect, the author wrote back to me, which is where the buck stops, here on OpEdNews. Here's what the writer emailed to me:
I knew you would pass on this article. Other blogs published it........you're the only one who didn't.

I bet that makes you feel good.

You ever heard of freedom of speech?

I know freedom of speech does not exist free in your forum. You have decided it was "too offensive," for your taste. Oh yes, you have made a decision for everyone else that it is too offensive for their tastes too. Lovely huh?

UnAmerican. Your "feelings" supercede and eviscerate my 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights in your forum.

You'd be surprised how many people know you routinely abrogate one's 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights.

All it takes is something you find "offensive."
Here's what I replied, with a little bit taken out to protect the anonymity of the writer:
I knew you'd write to complain and hoped you wouldn't go off the deep end. It appears you're almost ready to take that leap. I encourage you to take a few breaths and wait 24 hours before firing all your guns. And keep in mind that I like you, like your passion and energy. But you go overboard sometimes. It's okay to go overboard. But when you engage in pushing edges, like you do, you're going to bump up against resistance sometime. That's what happened today. You are smart enough to realize this and expect it, without getting angry. Then again, maybe you're not angry, I hope, just taking this step to push back against the rejection. It didn't work.

Actually, I didn't reject your article. One of our 27 volunteer editors rejected it for being not meeting our writing quality criteria. And first amendment rights have nothing to do with publishing. You have the right to SAY what you want. We have the right to reject any content we want and have no obligation to amplify what YOU say.

When I saw your article was rejected, I knew I'd hear from you, so I asked why.

I'm not sure you can handle it, but honestly, you ought to consider this feedback a gift and, I am dead serious about this, take the feedback and think about it, not get angry or defensive. You want to make a difference and reach people. This is how a respected editor, a very experienced, highly competent editor, who has published every other article you've submitted, saw this article.

...it was not particularly good writing and was rather sophomoric ...Seemed like
something written from a frat house - including how (the writer) ended it. I reject
very few pieces and just didn't feel this one was up to the site, not even

I'm attempting to be a bit more selective with articles... And while it wasn't as nasty as some, I think this mean spirited, attack mode that has reared its head on more than one occasion on OpEd, should be tamed slightly. This piece was just childish to me and didn't have any redeeming value to the site.
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OF those other sites (that accepted the article,) how many reached over 600,000 unique visitors last month. We have standards here and they do vary, from editor to editor. I trust this editor's judgment, and the editor has approved your articles in the past. So don't go chasing conspiracy theories.

And please keep in mind that I wouldn't take the time to give you such a detailed response if I didn't feel you were worth the investment. Don't return the respect I'm giving you with abuse. I won't tolerate it.

The writer responded with these words:
First of all, I'm not angry because I don't take these things personally because you don't personally know me from the man on the moon.

Thanks Rob for taking time to reply to me. And yes, I figured it wasn't you who rejected my article.

I appreciate you publishing my articles you have published.

It is what it is, Rob.....and you have your opinion and I have mine. No problemeskos.

Let me ask you this:

Do you sincerely believe you are NOT violating my free speech rights by refusing to publish this particular article?
Frankly, not all writers will take feedback. They come back with nasty namecalling, at which point, I ban them from the site. I refuse to take that kind of abuse. So I was very pleased that this writer responded in a calm reasonable way. But that still leaves the issue of freedom of speech hanging. Here's my reply:
Rights to free speech give YOU the right to speak or write, not the privilege of getting your ideas published.

Free Speech gives ME the right to publish the writings that I choose, and prevents the government and people who want to shut me or OpEdnews up, from stopping me or opednews.

Of course, at OpEdNews, there are 27 volunteer editors (we could use more. Some only work an hour or two every month or two) and each editor takes a different approach to articles. I think that's healthy. There are articles I don't like, that I might reject, that I'll leave to other editors to decide. Or sometimes, editors will, in the queue, leave a comment on an article, asking other editors to take a look and add their opinion, before accepting or rejecting the article. (It's a pretty cool editing/content management system.)

We are trying, here at OpEdNews.com, to accomplish a lot of things at once--
-build a cordial, civil digital community
-establish a credible, respected media site
-enable a very wide range of discussion on as many issues as possible
-empower progressive activists and organizations.
-support the publication of writings with a "we the people" approach to being open to writings for anyone who can write well and present new ideas, angles and or information.

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This is a big experiment and we're all on a steep learning curve, at least for parts of the project.

As we are growing, it is inevitable that we will make mistakes, and that we'll attract some crazy, some nasty, some hateful and toxic people. Fortunately, these have not been coming out of the woodwork... yet. We have banned a bit more than 50 people in the past 30+ months, out of millions who have come to the site. I don't think that's a bad batting average.

We're very open to suggestions on how to do things better-- what TO do and what NOT to do.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media (more...)

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