It’s the end of an era: The Troy Record and the Saratogian have killed their most popular feature, Sound Off. Here’s how Sound Off worked: readers called an answering machine and left anonymous comments, which the newspaper then published. They did it for years — as long as I can remember — since my earliest recollection of the Record.
As you can imagine, it was a cesspool of vitriol and rumor — and fun as hell to read. But now it’s all over.
Record and Saratogian managing editor Charlie Kraebel explained:
We want our readers to be able to express themselves and share their thoughts, but with civility. We don’t want The Saratogian and The Record to be complicit in a coarsening of public discourse that anonymity seems to encourage.
Bravo, Mr. Kraebel! It’s inspiring that after this decades-long experiment in free speech, responsibility wins out in the end.
Hilariously, Talk 1300’s Paul Vandenburgh — who makes a living putting anonymous people on the radio to say whatever they like — condemned Sound Off and applauded its demise. I guess he prefers the sort of free speech where you can turn off someone’s volume.
I’ve always been curious about how closely an editor looked at these Sound Off items. Some were pretty crazy — but not any worse than the comments that show up every day in Times Union blog posts.
The only people who should be applauding the death of Sound Off, are the poor schnooks who were forced to transcribe the calls. That must have been an awful job, most likely a task for interns or a staffer who pissed off the boss.