Keenspot newsbox policy clarification

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Keenspot newsbox policy clarification

Postby Gav on Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:29 pm

Hello all,

This weekend, we ran a newsbox for Friendly Hostility which featured two men kissing (or, debately, very close to kissing). Another Keenspotter, who objected to the content running on their site, subsequently removed the newsbox. Since then, we've been flooded with emails from outraged readers. From the emails we received, it appears there is a great deal of confusion regarding Keenspot policies surrounding the newsbox, so I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify the points that have been brought up and answer some questions, here in a public forum.

First, I need to say that Keenspot does not support the opinion that the newsbox was in any way "offensive." We also do not condone censorship at Keenspot.

However, we heartily respect the First Amendment rights of Keenspotters to have control over the content that appears on their pages, whether we agree with their censorship or not. We are under contractual obligations to the Keenspotters as much as they are to us.

Under contract, Keenspotters must post certain elements on their pages, including the newsbox. However, we also have agreed to give each Keenspotter the right to object to materials in upcoming newsboxes and request that a "G Rated" newsbox be provided.

This terminology has caused some confusion. We call it the "G Rated" newsbox, but the Keenspot management has not created guidelines for what constitutes a "G" rating. Instead, we allow Keenspotters to voice objections on a case by case basis. This is the most accurate way of ensuring the intended goal: that Keenspotters have control over the imagery that appears on their page. It should probably be called the "non-controversial" newsbox instead of "G."

Because of this Keenspotter right, we require that newsbox materials be submitted at least two days before they are to run if they have anything that might be deemed in any potential way as controversial, to give other Keenspotters the chance to review. Sandra was not aware of this policy (our fault), and therefore other Keenspotters had no opportunity to review the newsbox. When the concerned Keenspotter removed the newsbox from their webpage, it was after an objection and after which no alternative newsbox had been provided.

Therefore, again, while we don't support the objection itself, it has always been Keenspot policy to allow the objection. Removal of the newsbox was therefore supported by us, as we did not provide an alternate newsbox after the objection was made.

Now, to address some specific comments:
  • "Isn't it a violation of contract to remove the Keenspot newsbox?"

    No, because our contract also gives Keenspotters the right to preview each newsbox and request an alternate. We did not provide the alternate, even after considerable notice was given. (My bad: I forgot the newsbox was running for two days over the weekend).
  • "I've seen 'racier' images in past newsboxes."

    True, in our opinions, but no Keenspotter objected to them.

    I won't be responding to arguements that the image was appropriate or not, because I agree with them.

    The point of the "G" newsbox is not to censor what the Keenspot Owners feel is "inappropriate," but rather to allow each Keenspotter individual control. If there are no objections, then no "G" newsbox is required.
  • "The Keenspotter who removed the image is a bigot!"

    I would have to respond, "not likely." Instead, they have chosen to control their page content to not feature anything controversial to anyone. It may be argued that this policy supports bigotry, but does not necessarily indicate bigotry on the part of the concerned Keenspotter (who is not the only one).
  • "Is bigotry supported by Keenspot?"

    No, we support the image and do not support the reasons given for removing it. However, we support our respect for the Keenspotters' rights and our prior agreements with them as well.

    Personally, I found the image disgusting, but that's only because I don't like to see anyone kissing. ;)
  • "Did Keenspot pull the newsbox because of the complaint?"

    No, Keenspot did not pull the newsbox.



On a personal note, I just want to say that while it's hard to enjoy so much mail from angry readers, I felt really good that so many of you should feel so passionate about a subject that, according to most polls I see about America, is not widely supported. I live just across the bridge from "Gavin Newson's Hitching Post" and it has killed my spirit to hear so much gay bashing that has come lately across every other part of the country (and a little bit here as well). Please continue fighting this cause as strongly as you fought towards us. Thank you.


EDIT (March 16, 2005): If some of the following discussion seems disjointed, it's because this topic was split in two. Off-topic posts were moved to a separate topic to allow me to monitor and answer any questions on our actual newsbox policy without having to read a pointless flamewar). Some responses here may reference messages that were moved. Apologies for any confusion.
Last edited by Gav on Wed Mar 16, 2005 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Kinzoku on Mon Mar 07, 2005 5:47 pm

Since you've recieved so many angry letters (people feel more motivated to complain than compliment, unfortunately) here's my letter of approval:

That image made my day. Gay men kissing his hawt. Go Sandra. :d
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Re: Keenspot newsbox policy clarification

Postby zortic on Thu Mar 10, 2005 7:53 pm

Gav wrote:...whether we agree with their censorship or not.


My interpretation of the discussion was that the Keenspot leadership wasn't really treating this as a case of censorship on anyone's part. They seemed to agree that forcing content in with someone else's content can be just as damaging as omitting content, and their policy seems to address that realization very well. (Would anyone be screaming "censorship" if I refused to run a KKK ad on my site?)

As an innocent bystander, (even though a replacement newsbox didn't appear in time) I was very impressed with the rational way the situation was expressed and understood by everyone involved, especially by Sandra and the Keenspot Leadership. [EDIT: corrected some spelling. :lol: ]
Last edited by zortic on Fri Mar 11, 2005 4:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Kurtz on Thu Mar 10, 2005 11:32 pm

Wow. I can't believe how catty this community is to itself.
I certainly can't believe that any letters of complaint came from anyone outside the webcomics community. If someone didn't want a newsbox running on their site, for any reason, who can blame them?

And to accuse Keenspot of anything is preposterous. Contract or not, if they don't care that a keenspotter wante to drop the newsbox for a day, then it doesn't matter what the contract said. It's not a law of God, it's a contract between two groups. If both people agree who cares.

Wow. Just wow.
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Postby Tangent on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:04 am

oO

Someone was offended of a picture of two people kissing? This is sad. And pathetic. I mean, so what if they were both men? That issue is key to the very comic's plot... these two characters are the main characters and their plotlines are often central to the comic. No matter what the link, it would have led to this comic, depicting two men.

What's next... the right to ban any newsbox from a comic that a Keenspotter finds offensive or distasteful? What, if someone doesn't like the occult or nudity in Clan of the Cats, they can refuse to run Newsboxes from them? Or maybe someone will dislike the fact that we have premarital sex in College Roomies from Hell, and thus the next time Maritza has a newsbox, someone will ban that from the newsbox?

*sigh* Okay, I guess what we need is three ratings systems. "G", "PG", and "R" (for Racy). G can have just the comic's name in it. Nice, inoffensive, and bland. "PG" is okay so long as it doesn't show peoples heads being chopped in half or nudity (ie, the things that make an R-rated movie "R"). "R" allows for Gav to have his head chopped off :roll: or Chelsea to be naked or anything else like that.

Of course, that still won't satisfy those people who find the comic itself offensive, but you can never satisfy everyone... and if they don't like the fact they share Keenspot with comics that they find objectionable... then to be honest, maybe they shouldn't be in Keenspot.
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Postby Walky on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:18 am

Tangent wrote:What's next... the right to ban any newsbox from a comic that a Keenspotter finds offensive or distasteful? What, if someone doesn't like the occult or nudity in Clan of the Cats, they can refuse to run Newsboxes from them? Or maybe someone will dislike the fact that we have premarital sex in College Roomies from Hell, and thus the next time Maritza has a newsbox, someone will ban that from the newsbox?


Dude.

We HAVE been doing that since Keenspot was formed. There's a g-rated Newsbox, run on some sites, and there is a non-g-rated newsbox, run on the rest. If a strip wants a newsbox that has possibly objectionable material in it, a G-rated version is created as an alternative.

Maritza runs the G-rated box. If there are any strips that want to run controversial material, she gets the G-rated version instead.

Surprise!

(And, geez, Bobby, quit embarrassing all of us. Jesus Christ.)
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Postby Tangent on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:31 am

Walky wrote:
Tangent wrote:What's next... the right to ban any newsbox from a comic that a Keenspotter finds offensive or distasteful? What, if someone doesn't like the occult or nudity in Clan of the Cats, they can refuse to run Newsboxes from them? Or maybe someone will dislike the fact that we have premarital sex in College Roomies from Hell, and thus the next time Maritza has a newsbox, someone will ban that from the newsbox?

Dude.

We HAVE been doing that since Keenspot was formed. There's a g-rated Newsbox, run on some sites, and there is a non-g-rated newsbox, run on the rest. If a strip wants a newsbox that has possibly objectionable material in it, a G-rated version is created as an alternative.

Maritza runs the G-rated box. If there are any strips that want to run controversial material, she gets the G-rated version instead.

Surprise!

(And, geez, Bobby, quit embarrassing all of us. Jesus Christ.)

David, you didn't understand what I was saying. I wasn't saying that if a Newsbox had distasteful content (say, Gav having his head chopped in half) (yes, I *am* going to fixate on that Avatar. It's fuuun!). Seeing Dave and Margaret naked on the screen, or Mike being tortured by the Devil... these things would not be suitable for, say, Alice.

What I was saying is that if the COMIC ITSELF had distasteful content, or rather, content that the person found distasteful, that they might start yanking the newsbox. That someone might dislike the fact Chelsea Chattan is a witch (and/or naked frequently). Or they might dislike the fact a comic has gay/lesbian characters in it and thus ban the newsbox because the comic might lead to topics that are distasteful to the Spotter (or even the Spotter's audience).

And what, exactly, is controversial? I mean, Friendly Hostilities had two male characters close to each other. We didn't see an open-mouth kiss between them or anything to that effect. We didn't see them romping around naked (or even topless) on a beach. They were not DOING anything. What, then, will constitute "objectionable"? When do you draw the line?
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Postby Gav on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:45 am

Tangent wrote:What I was saying is that if the COMIC ITSELF had distasteful content, or rather, content that the person found distasteful, that they might start yanking the newsbox. That someone might dislike the fact Chelsea Chattan is a witch (and/or naked frequently). Or they might dislike the fact a comic has gay/lesbian characters in it and thus ban the newsbox because the comic might lead to topics that are distasteful to the Spotter (or even the Spotter's audience).


No, Keenspotters are not allowed to yank the newsbox based on anything they dislike about the comic it links to. Our agreement with them is that they have control over the imagery that appears on their page. They are required to a run a newsbox every day, and we are required to supply an alternate newsbox if they object to the content.

And what, exactly, is controversial? I mean, Friendly Hostilities had two male characters close to each other. We didn't see an open-mouth kiss between them or anything to that effect. We didn't see them romping around naked (or even topless) on a beach. They were not DOING anything. What, then, will constitute "objectionable"? When do you draw the line?


We don't draw the line. As I said, our agreement with the Keenspotters is that they have control over the images that appear on their page. If any one of them objects, an alternate newsbox must be provided.

Frankly, it would be a huge mistake for us to "draw the line." I am especially bad at predicting what offends and what doesn't, because very little offends me. Keenspotters in the past have objected to the use of such words as "crap" or "damn," which just look like normal words to me. On the other hand, there have been some pretty scantily clad women and scenes of violence in the past that I might predict would be "objectionable" and no one has objected. Therefore, allow me to restate one of the most important lines from my original post:

Gav wrote: This is the most accurate way of ensuring the intended goal: that Keenspotters have control over the imagery that appears on their page.


I also feel somehow that I might be mispelling "imagery." It doesn't look right to me.
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Postby Walky on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:47 am

Tangent wrote:What I was saying is that if the COMIC ITSELF had distasteful content, or rather, content that the person found distasteful, that they might start yanking the newsbox. That someone might dislike the fact Chelsea Chattan is a witch (and/or naked frequently). Or they might dislike the fact a comic has gay/lesbian characters in it and thus ban the newsbox because the comic might lead to topics that are distasteful to the Spotter (or even the Spotter's audience).


And that's a "slippery slope" argument. That's a logical fallacy.

We've had this system in place for five years. This has happened several times before. Newsboxes have been dropped by individual artists for a day because of newsbox content. Not all the time, but this is in no way a new phenomenon.

There's no reason to suggest that this particular incident will escalate into some sort of newsboxpocalypse.
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Postby Tangent on Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:48 am

Gav wrote:
Gav wrote: This is the most accurate way of ensuring the intended goal: that Keenspotters have control over the imagery that appears on their page.

I also feel somehow that I might be mispelling "imagery." It doesn't look right to me.

Nope, it's correct. Hey, when in doubt, use http://www.dict.org :D
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Postby Jamie on Fri Mar 11, 2005 11:55 am

A couple of years ago I ran a newsbox w/ Chelsea and her lesbian vampire lover in it. There was a sexual undertone to the image itself, but I didn't provide a g-rated news box nor did anyone complain. The moral of the story is that a newsbox or any image for that matter doesn't have to be blatant to get the point across. :)

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Postby Walky on Fri Mar 11, 2005 12:04 pm

Yeah. You can get away with a lot if you're careful about it.
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Postby NotoriousMEQ on Fri Mar 11, 2005 4:57 pm

All I know is that I'm convinced the keenspot policy is a good one for business reasons. Moral stuff you can debate all day (and I know who I side with), but the solution that keeps readers, creators and other creators pretty darn happy is the one to go with.

I'm just glad to know that I can change the newsbox the day Chris* goes mad and does one promoting Gilmore Girls**. Even I have my limits!!


-Megs

*he's not that far away. CSI is just one step away! Too bad Lesnick isn't here to do more Joey promoting!

**I'm assuming the 'G' rated newsbox would be about Lizzie McGuire and that is GOOD STUFF.
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Postby Freak on Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:05 pm

Syke issued her complaint 24 hours before pulling the newsbox. See my 7:18 post on Websnark.
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Re: Okay, he MIGHT be gay. But probably not.

Postby Jamie on Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:26 pm

Tangent wrote:BTW, what *was* the sequence of events on that? Was a complaint lodged and then when no "G" pic was available, then the person yanked the Newsbox? Or did they yank and then complain?


No G version was available because the newsbox was not delivered on time per Keesnpot rules. The complaint was made and then the newsbox was later yanked with a text link in its place. Any Keenspotter can remove any newsbox if he or she finds the newsbox itself objectionable if there is not a G rated version provided. I see nothing wrong with this policy.

Look at it this way. If a Keenspotter did a newsbox of his or her hero burning a witch and did not provide a g-rated version, (although I doubt I would be the only one objecting to an image of a woman being burned alive in the newsbox), I would have to opt out and remove the newsbox from the COTC site for that day. I can
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Postby Freak on Fri Mar 11, 2005 6:21 pm

How about: Have each artist create an "emergency G rated newsbox" (if nothing else, then the comic's logo is considered safe); these are viewable well in advance. If one artist doesn't produce a suitable newsbox in time (or does so, but the second can not view it in time (say, is out of town during the preview period and returns right before it is put up), the second can easily switch to the "emergency G rated".
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Postby DarkShive on Fri Mar 11, 2005 6:25 pm

Freak wrote:How about: Have each artist create an "emergency G rated newsbox" (if nothing else, then the comic's logo is considered safe); these are viewable well in advance. If one artist doesn't produce a suitable newsbox in time (or does so, but the second can not view it in time (say, is out of town during the preview period and returns right before it is put up), the second can easily switch to the "emergency G rated".

Sounds good! My emergency G rated box will feature streaking.

EDIT - It's a good idea in theory, but implementing it could be difficult. It would require Gav or Nate to do a fair amount of extra coding to implement for full effectiveness, or at least will add to the task of preparing the newsbox daily. Of course, others may think of a way to implement it in better ways than I can.
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Postby Maritza Campos on Fri Mar 11, 2005 9:21 pm

Actually, Rob... you'll notice the word "Hell" is part of the TITLE of my strip.

And I STILL consider my duty to supply a G newsbox without that word. I usually call it CRFH there. I don't think I have always done it, but if someone had complained about it, I would have admitted my mistake and changed it without hesitation.

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Postby Tangent on Fri Mar 11, 2005 9:32 pm

Maritza Campos wrote:Actually, Rob... you'll notice the word "Hell" is part of the TITLE of my strip.

And I STILL consider my duty to supply a G newsbox without that word. I usually call it CRFH there. I don't think I have always done it, but if someone had complained about it, I would have admitted my mistake and changed it without hesitation.

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Very true, Mari. You're very adept at keeping content of your Newsboxes to remain inoffensive, though I must admit missing your more teasing newsboxes. Some of them were quite a bit of fun. ;)

If this had happened during the week, I suspect the problem would have been corrected quickly. Because it was during a weekend, getting in contact with people was probably not exactly easy. But not being part of the Keen staff, I'm just speculating.

Yeah yeah, I know, what else is new with me. I *always* speculate. ;)

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Re: That was most entertaining :)

Postby Maritza Campos on Mon Mar 14, 2005 11:26 pm

dj_steele wrote: Personally I like to start off the day with a little CRFH and then make my way down. Then again I'm a creature of habit and should prolly start from the top. BTW Ms. Campos glad to see a comic for Tues. and hope all is going well :)


Yessss. Listen to this guy :)

Thank you dj_steele, and I'm glad to be back as well. I didn't want CRFH to be another casualty of the old, timeless war of mankind vs. machine. Stupid Win XP...

As for this whole thread, it's a bit disappointment to see even more stirring about something that should have not been more than an internal Keenspot policy discussion. However, some clarifications...

Scott Kurtz is my friend. I may not agree with everything he says, tho. I did agree with him on the newsbox thing. The rest about Bobby and Chris, let's just say it was an entirely different discussion that got mixed and matched with the newsbox hooha. All I can say is that all that stuff about the school acquisition, Sore Thumbs, etc etc... all those things have been discussed and addressed exhaustively... in an internal fashion. I don't know if these things should actually be clarified publically as well. Color me clueless.

Now, about Gav's clarification at the very first start of this thread... I understood it as a clarification/apology on Keenspot's newsbox policy. I think it made it clear that Keenspot can't have, as a collective, a political posture -of any kind- imposed on its cartoonists' websites. Perhaps Gav's personal addendum at the end of his message -his happiness at the outrage against anti-gay bigotry- was misinterpreted as an "official" posture from Keenspot, and thus, seen as a "disowning" of the complaining cartoonist. But no, it was not an official posture of any kind. Because as I said, there can't be an official posture on such matters.

Further clarification of the newsbox brouhaha, and a personal response to Websnark: http://www.livejournal.com/community/sn ... tml#cutid1

For the people coming from PA, a bit of clarification there as well... it's true that Eric Burns from Websnark had that rant posted, perhaps a bit impulsively. As you can read in my previous "personal response", he was working with a bit of misinformation there, and he got some facts straightened. And in his defense, he then posted a public apology:

http://www.websnark.com/archives/2005/0 ... l#comments

I hope this thread dies a merciful death really soon, and I only hope I had humbly contributed to its death.

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Postby Gav on Mon Mar 14, 2005 11:31 pm

Hi all,

I don't intend to respond to anything except the original intent of this message, because I for one am going to follow my own advice of ignoring activity that I do not wish to take part in, with the one exception:

I'm not going to lock this thread. I do not usually do so. If people wish to talk about something, it's not my place to quiet them. I regret that this may be some people's first introduction to Keenspot, but I also don't believe in censorship to make myself look better. Like it or not, this post happened.


Now, I wish to very briefly address Scott Kurtz' comments in his latest rant. I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum to do so, but I don't know of a better one, especially as his forums lead to a 404 page.

I'll do my best not to harbor ill will towards Kurtz despite his comments. All I would like to respond is that it was not my intention to "protect our liberal street cred." It was only my intention to respond to specific questions that our readers were asking. One question that was in everyone's email was, "Does Keenspot support bigotry?" or "Is Keenspot anti-gay?" I felt it was my responsibility to indicate that we supported the content of the newsbox by stating our opinion on the subject matter itself.

I also felt a great responsibility to support the right of the Keenspotter to remove the newsbox, and perhaps also defend their action while at the same time, showing our support for the content of the newsbox, itself. I did, in fact, add a note that I didn't feel the Keenspotter was acting bigotedly. Obviously, it's a very difficult thing to indicate support for both positions when people are shouting "bigot" at you, and if my carefully crafted words still showed a slant in an inappropriate direction, I apologize. Perhaps I wasn't aware that supporting equal rights is considered by Kurtz to be a shallow expression of "liberal street cred."

I hope that Scott is not simply searching for a surrogate issue to rant upon, having been irritated by other factors, especially in light of what appeared to be original support of our actions. After all, it seems odd to harp so violently upon a rather minor "liberal leaning" to the post, when he supports our overall response in general.

In any respect, it hurts to read these comments, but as a responsible Keenspot representative, I can take criticism without inappropriate anger or harboring a useless grudge. It's Scott's right to voice his opinion and that's just how he assessed the situation. I won't take it personally.


And now I'll respectfully bow back out of this thread, except to answer any specific questions that may be posed of me on the situation.
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Postby Kurtz on Tue Mar 15, 2005 12:11 am

I have removed ONE sentence from my rant.

"Nobody knows if Keenspot bought the school or if Crosby himself bought it. It's his home but it's also the new Keenspot head offices."

I was not aware that this was detailed in any article. Regardless, the only reason I mentioned it was because that subject was broached by Keenspotters at San Diego, not because I was trying to insinuate anything.

I'm sorry if that one sentence diluted the message of my post today as it's hardly germane to my message

I stand 100% behind everything else I said.
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Postby Evander on Tue Mar 15, 2005 2:37 am

Oh man.

I just read Kurtz's rant.

He is TOTALLY wrong.

Which is why I love him.
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Postby Preen on Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:33 am

Another bit of traffic from PA, but I'm not new to Keenspot. Any other off-siters who are actually put off Keenspot by this, don't be. This thread is mostly just a two-man vendetta and there's a lot of talented artists here who deserve the interest.

I think Scott's rant was weak, cathartic nonsense. I don't know what else he expected Gav to do -- publically support the views of the artist who lifted the newsbox? That would have meant demonizing the comic to whom the advertisement belonged, and it would have brought another torrent of political protest down on Keenspot administration for sure. Not said anything at all? He had to support the content of the ad, by default; otherwise he wouldn't have let it circulate to begin with. He chose the diplomatic option and was very level-headed about it, it's just a shame some of the people in the webcomic community are so bigheaded.

Oh, and Chris, you must have Godlike patience to put up with some of the stuff you do. Between the personal barbs over the purchasing of the school and the incredible temper of your brother, I'm in utter awe.
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Postby carsonfire on Tue Mar 15, 2005 4:58 am

Preen wrote: I don't know what else he expected Gav to do -- publically support the views of the artist who lifted the newsbox? That would have meant demonizing the comic to whom the advertisement belonged, and it would have brought another torrent of political protest down on Keenspot administration for sure. Not said anything at all? He had to support the content of the ad, by default; otherwise he wouldn't have let it circulate to begin with. He chose the diplomatic option and was very level-headed about it, it's just a shame some of the people in the webcomic community are so bigheaded.


Thanks for saying that, Preen. I think Gav did do the right thing. As a matter of fact, one webcartoonist in IRC the other day told me that he felt that Gav was just stirring things up by posting that clarification. But it's withholding information that gets companies in trouble.

Similarly, it's instructive to compare Keenspot's move into a physical comic book store and its move to offices in SD. The move to the comic book store took a lot of people by surprise, and there was little info at first. So some cartoonists were confused and angry.

But the move to the new offices was handled *far* better: we were told what was going on, when, how it was being paid for, etc. Chris even gave us links to early newspaper stories citing a "mysterious" entity that was buying the school and moving into town. And so instead of being an unpleasant surprise, it was something a lot of us were excited about and rooting for, instead.

Transparency and communication: good! Nothing works perfectly, no process isn't flawed, but if there's talk, you know why those flaws exist, and know that they are not by design but the result of an imperfect world full of imperfect people trying to do the best they can.
Cars, as always
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