Transparency equals credibility online, offline

On Friday afternoon, we were looking at a web site which had a petition to run principal Ezekiel Ohan out of the Hancock Schools District. It clearly indicated there were no petition signatures.

On Monday afternoon, we checked the site again on the same computer. Same result: 0 petition signatures.

But another computer in the newsroom showed more than 200 signatures on Monday.

It appears we reported incorrectly there were no signatures Friday afternoon because the computer was operating with an obsolete version of the internet server. As with any mistake we make in reporting news, we acknowledge the error with regret, because the Daily Mining Gazette does not knowingly print incorrect or false information.

This incident offers a teachable moment about information and content on the internet. The lesson is this: Content on the open worldwide web, particularly social media but any site which can be freely accessed, can be hacked, manipulated, changed and altered, either purposely or unwittingly, in many ways.

There are millions of bots out there spamming, scamming as real people with real email addresses, clicking on sites to distort SEO data, mining personal data and performing countless other functions 24/7.

Let’s assume for a moment all those signatures are real people. Why are they not identified? Why is the site’s host, “Concerned Parent,” concealing his/her/their identity? Identity, which is a form of transparency, demonstrates credibility.

Do you know what else has nothing in terms of credibility? Online petitions.

Do you know what does have credibility in terms of real people freely expressing their true opinion in real public discourse? A letter to the editor verified by this newspaper.

We would extend an invitation every signer to talk to us for the record about why they want to get rid of Ohan. If they don’t want to do that, they are welcome to write a letter to the editor.

We will concede the story reported there were no signatures when there probably were, but the uproar about that secondary point is a diversion to the real news of Saturday’s story: A group of people has emerged from the shadows to try to remove a principal.

By remaining anonymous on the internet, they avoid exposing themselves to explaining their reasons to Hancock Schools District taxpayers through an examination from this newspaper.

Instead of revealing their identities, which we suspect they will continue to do so they can spread baseless claims and reasons, they created a diversion by attacking the secondary news.

We’ll try to find out why as we continue investigating this story, because all these people, if they are people, can’t hide forever.

In fact, some of them have exposed themselves in attacking us for printing the petition story. We will be following up with them also — if they have enough courage of their convictions.

One more thing about transparency: This editorial is the position of the Daily Mining Gazette, and the two people responsible for it are listed right at the top of this page.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial