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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

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more...)

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I have no rejection issues around here. At the sam... by John Kusumi on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:28:27 PM
Oh, by the way -- when I published my article, &qu... by John Kusumi on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:34:03 PM
The editorial staff and selection of material seem... by Michael Chavers on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:34:42 PM
is all part of being a journalist.  If OpEdNe... by Michael Morris on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:40:05 PM
As an election reform activist, I marvel at the qu... by Brent Turner on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:48:47 PM
Freedom of speech only applies when the censor is ... by 1dogbarking on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:56:34 PM
As another contributor who has had articles either... by Kenneth Barr on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 2:57:44 PM
your comebacker to the rejected writer missed the ... by legalpad on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:04:45 PM
no state funds, though, if my legislators wanted t... by Rob Kall on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:52:58 PM
Wrong!  That money would HAVE to be rejected,... by Carl Weis on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:32:52 PM
If you are a government funded speech outlet can y... by Gallaher on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 1:07:23 PM
I did not see the rejected article so I can't ... by Richard Wise on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:06:22 PM
I remember when Rob was begging for articles, now,... by ardee D. on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:19:27 PM
Interesting how these genius editors comment ... by Ron Corvus on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:23:27 PM
so much for me respecting your anonymity. It may w... by Rob Kall on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:55:54 PM
Don't have any valid opinion one way or the ot... by CHIG on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:21:03 PM
After reading the discussed rejected item at the p... by Kitty Antonik Wakfer on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:50:56 PM
I've tried to make it clear to editors that th... by Rob Kall on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 8:52:36 PM
....and professor of journalism and mass communica... by Professor Fandel on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:34:34 PM
we DO have some advertisers, just not many. And ou... by Rob Kall on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 3:57:57 PM
I am neither a writer an editor nor constitutional... by CHIG on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:01:03 PM
Hello folksWhenever I resubmit an article to Opedn... by Kathryn Smith on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:03:33 PM
When I became active in yahoogroups and then blogs... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:03:50 PM
As a couple of readers have crrectly noted, there ... by Brasch on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:36:18 PM
as one journalist who has vomited a article, based... by Michael Morris on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 7:02:16 AM
To me, Op-Ed News is no different than a magazine ... by William Cormier on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:37:22 PM
Here's the rest of the story:I didn't know... by Ron Corvus on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:40:21 PM
If you knew how to write a decent satire. The thin... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:45:35 PM
You mean like this?I'm sorry, I didn'... by Ron Corvus on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 5:52:51 PM
What's your point? I didn't know the progr... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 6:30:01 PM
I've been on CNN.........and I used to sing an... by Ron Corvus on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:32:40 AM
Grow up Ron. We've all had writing rejected. I... by John R Moffett on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:06:58 AM
People respect Hillary Clinton - I don't. Get ... by Cheryl Biren on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 10:46:08 PM
Cheryl: Yeah, it's true......all so silly........ by Ron Corvus on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:24:20 AM
you say: A current Rolling Stone article refe... by Cheryl Biren on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 7:54:15 AM
my "exactly" was about my point being ma... by Cheryl Biren on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 8:08:50 AM
What's sad is Rob elected to publish as a... by Ron Corvus on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:47:01 AM
but I kept you, even your gender, anonymous. Your ... by Rob Kall on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 10:35:10 AM
Fery tricky problem well, if time consumingly,&nbs... by John Hill on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 4:54:42 PM
Well written post, Rob. I agree with your right to... by Thaddeus Kaczor Jr on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 5:54:22 PM
  I am very disappointed by your conclus... by Dan'l on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 6:01:25 PM
hey Kord, go "Foul Language - 'f*ck'i... by Ron Corvus on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 6:18:39 PM
Rob - it's YOUR Blog so you can decide to publ... by mrk * on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 7:32:34 PM
I read the original. It's no wonder that the a... by Louise Nelson on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 7:51:37 PM
My experience has been that overt expressions of p... by John Hanks on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 8:11:28 PM
You have repeatedly made antisemitic remarks, hidi... by Rob Kall on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 9:06:00 PM
Without reading the article I can't comment on... by Judith Conoyer on Monday, Feb 11, 2008 at 10:19:53 PM
Rob,I have no problem with your editorial policies... by reasonableperson on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 12:44:08 AM
More anger will not help.  Only when we all, ... by davy on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:44:27 AM
is an acknowledged necessity. Lenin said that.&nbs... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 8:54:26 AM
I have been a reader here LONG before I ever began... by Cheri Roberts on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 10:37:14 AM
Rob, In response to your “Free Speech&rdquo... by Sherwin Steffin on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:14:00 AM
i appreciate your insights on this, but would like... by Cheryl Biren on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 12:20:55 PM
This is the second time I joined OpEd.  I lef... by Jeanette Doney on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:30:47 AM
http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/recent_display.js... by Jeanette Doney on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:47:03 AM
We want checks and balances otherwise it is just m... by Cheri Roberts on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 11:56:03 AM
I want to do my own checking and balancing. T... by Jeanette Doney on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 12:24:59 PM
a HUGE part of the problem in America IMHO is most... by Cheri Roberts on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 12:33:12 PM
I for one am tired of the creep towards ant-semiti... by Steve Windisch (jibbguy) on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 12:20:20 PM
Every time I submit something I always wonder if i... by Lance L. Landon on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 3:48:01 PM
I depend upon rigorous editing to separate wheat f... by JonmarkP on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 4:18:11 PM
I like your attitude. :-)I get in wild moods ... by Gallaher on Tuesday, Feb 12, 2008 at 10:22:31 PM