June 8, 2012
By Mitch Mitchell
FORT WORTH -- Readers upset that a Fort Worth police officer fatally shot a border collie mix Sunday have made their feelings known through e-mails and hundreds of comments on a story at star-telegram.com.
Readers have suggested that the officer -- who has not been identified -- overreacted, was "trigger happy," was inadequately trained and should be fired.
One reader questioned why it was acceptable for an officer to fatally shoot a dog while it was not OK for a fisherman to fatally shoot an 11-foot alligator that he felt threatened by in the Trinity River. In that recent incident, a man was cited for hunting by illegal means and methods and for not having a hunting license and faces $5,300 in restitution.
And while some people defended the officer's actions, others let their emotions run wild, saying they would retaliate against a police officer who shot their dog on their property, a troubling line of comments that blurs the line between free speech and terroristic threats.
This comment was among those deleted from star-telegram.com: "Here is a solution, if you see a cop shoot immediately it might save an innocent life. Another solution, train dogs to attack anyone with a gun."
One reader's e-mail to the Star-Telegram said that if a police officer shot his dog, "Then we would have a big problem, because I would charge that cop and beat him senseless, if he hadn't already killed me too. Then, where would we be??? Dead dog, dead owner, or cop."
Fort Worth police say they are not responding to the threats....
Social media have completely changed the way we communicate, Larsen said, explaining that people now respond to information sooner after digesting it and that that is not always a good thing.
"I'm astonished when I read a lot of the posts," Larsen said. "People with fringe outlooks are able to find others like them. There was no forum for this type of speech 20 years ago. There's the opportunity for extreme opinions to come forward and make themselves known where they would not have had the opportunity in the past."
In the past, the media acted as a filter, said Tyler Barnett, a social media expert and president of Tyler Barnett Public Relations in Beverly Hills, Calif. Advances in social media have eliminated that filter, allowing lunatics to voice their opinions, he said. People have to be prepared for the good and the bad when a forum opens itself up to the public, Barnett said. However, he said, "I don't think it's ever appropriate to threaten to kill someone."
To be relevant in today's market, a 21st-century news organization needs to have a forum where people can share ideas, said Jake Batsell, an assistant professor of digital journalism at Southern Methodist University. Usually, the forum adds a lot to the conversation, Batsell said. And usually, as with this story, most of the comments are civil.
Some news outlets are experimenting with ways to compel posters to identify themselves as a way to raise the level of discourse, Batsell said.
Some outlets have devised ways to tie posters' screen names to Facebook or Twitter profiles. Other communication companies' comment sections are monitored by full-time moderators, which has elevated the dialogue but is time-consuming and expensive, Batsell said.
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/31/3999876/shooting-of-dog-by-police-brings.html#storylink=cpy