Thursday, November 13, 2014

Closings and bannings

It is always a little disappointing when a local place you frequent closes down. On Sunday it was announced that The Jury Room was sold and would be reopened in a couple of weeks. My wife and I liked the place a lot, we thought the staff was great. When we brought my severely autistic son who does not eat off the menu due to his eating disorder, they were always accepting and accommodating.

It was weird that the owner, Liz Lessner, was relatively quiet about the closing online in that when one of her other establishments recently closed, she was very open, in painful detail, during the process of the close. With the Jury Room, there was no process, but this happens.

The local newspaper published what I think is a fluff piece about the closing that seemed more like damage control to me.

Why damage control? A former employee was publicly posting about financial difficulties and Columbus Underground, a local message board, was also getting a few posts about the situation. Questions were asked, some I thought legitimate. There were people defending Lessner and others not so much.

I decided to reach out to Liz. We exchanged some respectful emails and I felt comfortable she told me her side of the story.

Meanwhile the Jury Room thread on Columbus Underground attracted various sock puppets, trolls and deflectors, including the site's own food critic. Not a very professional move on her part. One poster was banned from the site and created a blog about Columbus Underground censorship.

I understand that Columbus Underground is Walker Evans' site, and he has rules. But his ways of moderating the site are quite arbitrary. He'll allow trolls, and newly created user names to post all kinds of libel, bullying and misogyny, but when questions are asked of a city business owner, posts begin to get deleted. He deleted my link to the blog post immediately and sent me a private message about the terms of service of the site being violated. We exchanged some messages and I told him he was promoting bullying and misogyny through his site and could have done better in handling the Jury Room thread.

We all like a few laughs, but when internet mob rule runs a website unfettered while important questions go unanswered, it might be time to rethink my interaction with a local message board.

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