You'll remember that a few days ago, I wrote about how LA Times blogger Elizabeth Snead had suggested Sarah Palin should "lie back and submit" to sexist coverage of her book campaign. It was a crassly vulgar image to use, and it incensed me so much I left a comment at Snead's blog to that effect. I wasn't the only one angered. Several people in the comments highlighted the "lie back and submit" language.
And then something interesting happened: The offending paragraph disappeared. As did every comment on the blog criticizing Snead's choice of words. Gone down the memory hole, with no explanation whatsoever. At this point you'll just have to take my word that Snead made the offensive comment; I assure you she did. (Update: I wasn't the only blogger who noticed.)
Here's the good news: Somebody at the LA Times -- maybe Snead herself, maybe one of her editors -- realized that she'd said something way beyond the bounds of good taste and decided to withdraw the comment. Fine.
Here's the bad news: It was done without any transparency whatsoever. Reputable bloggers and journalists, when they make an error of taste or fact, highlight the error and offer apologies. Even if you think Snead was right to quietly edit the blog post, however, there's still a problem: The deletion of all the comments that criticized her choice of words.
Having worked at newspapers awhile, and with their comments specifically, I can tell you it is generally considered bad form to delete a comment that merely criticizes the content on display. You boot a comment for making racist or libelous comments, for posting private information about other people or for just being too big a jerk. But you don't delete comments that criticize you, because it's fundamentally dishonest.
Which is why Snead and the LA Times were wrong to merely unpublish her inflammatory remarks without offering a public explanation. They didn't just quiet her; they silenced all the people who pointed out what a poor choice she made. And that deeply undermines the credibility of the LA Times. As it should.