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LA Times Puts Wikitorial on Skids

Faced with the challenge of hosting a conversation they couldn’t control, the Los Angeles Times learned first hand the risks associated with hosting open forums online when their new wikitorial experiment was hijacked by pornographers. For now, a simple post says they’re on hold, but it will be interesting to see if and how they manage to revive their interactive game plan.

There’s a story [registration required?] on the melt down inside today’s Los Angeles Times front page section, but the article in The New York Times Business Day goes deeper, revealing that it wasn’t until a post about their Wikitorials appeared on Slashdot that things spun out of of control.

The Los Angeles Times old guard editorial board, which rumor has it was not behind the new interactive foray, are probably thrilled that the program went South. I give them a lot of credit for trying, but fault them for backing down.

Wikis are self correcting, and it’s entirely possible that the thousands of readers who contributed thoughtfully to the experiment would have removed the offending photos themselves. And even if they didn’t, The Times had an opportunity to engage the hackers in a debate by articulating why their contributions were not welcome, and by challenging them to defend themselves ideologically, or risk being humiliated by the editorial board.

It’s a shame that some of the smartest people in Los Angeles resorted to censorship, instead of their intellects, to get the situation under control.

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