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Feb 21, 2012 10:56 AM

Participants on Food Media and News: Your Input Please

There's an ongoing problem in discussions on the Food Media and News board. It's particularly an issue with Top Chef threads, but it pops up in other threads about food shows and food personalities, as well. The moderators are having difficulties figuring out where to draw the lines on this issue and are turning to the community for input.

We have an existing policy against bashing Food Network hosts and other personalities ( ) which has helped slow down the number of 'Rachael Ray SUX' threads that get started. The problem we have with applying those same rules to shows like Top Chef is that the personalities of the contestants really do come into play on the show much moreso than on a straight cooking show. Whether someone is a jerk or not is a legitimate aspect of discussing the show.

But some people do seem to take that pretty far -- recent threads have involved calling contestants things like 'a skank', 'an obese cow', having long discussions about whether someone was mentally ill, etc. Other people get offended by those statements, and we end up with a flame war not about the content of the show but about whether it's appropriate to talk about the content of the show in that manner -- and that kind of "discussion about the discussion" has always been considered off-topic here. We don't want users jumping on each other for language choice or educating each other about sensititivity issues. Those are just not conversations that ever go well.

We're not looking to create a list of banned words. That wouldn't actually solve the problem, as people would just use other words that we hadn't thought of yet, and isn't in keeping with our policy on offensive language. Nor are we looking to allow the most sensitive members of the board to drive off all discussion they'd rather not see. But we are looking to find a way to draw a distinction between legitimate discussion of what happens on a TV show and pointless, personal bashing of the contestants on those shows, as well as a way to ward off the inevitable 'you're a jerk for saying that' follow-up discussions.

Our best thought at the moment is that if a statement is specifically tied into something that happened on the show then it's okay, but general negative statements about aspects of appearance or personality that don't affect what's actually happening on the show aren't relevant and may be removed. Along with that, we would also remove any 'that's offensive/inappropriate to discuss' tangents -- the remedy for something you didn't think was appropriate would be to report it and let the mods make the call.

We'd like to hear from you, though, if you're a regular participant on these threads. Where would you draw the lines?

-- Jacquilynne, Community Manager for Chowhound

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  1. When it comes to Top Chef and other shows like it, it's a competition. These people are putting themselves out there and many times are displaying horrible traits. While the editing may have a lot to do with it - we feel the need to comment on the contestants' actions - it's a big part of the show and I bet many of the contestants don't care what we say - they are just happy to see their names on here!!

    As for the personal bashing between posters - it's just ridiculous and yes, we should be allowed to flag them if it is consistent.

    1. I don't think that you can draw the line since it is a shape shifting monster whose dimensions are determined by what happens on any given week. I agree that personal attacks can sometimes get out of hand, but my feeling is that those are the things to moderate rather than creating an overarching policy that can never cover every direction that the discussion gets pulled in.

      There are individuals who do post on the TC threads who seem to be purposefully contentious and who seem to particularly enjoy getting into flame wars with other posters. Whoever moderates the TC threads probably knows who they are. So instead of creating new guidelines that can never cover everything and would only serve to squelch the fun discussions that do arise out of those threads, perhaps it would be best to continue to deal with the problems as they arrise. The same would go for individuals who are guilty of name calling when it is directed at the cheftestants. Other than that, I don't think it's fair to limit the discussion -- or the fun-- based on the comments of a few individuals.

      1. Well, as a regular participant and the non-elected live recapper of the Top Chef shows, I'm concerned about restricting what people say on those threads. It would disrupt the natural flow about the episode.

        What often gets discussed is based on what happens on a specific episode. Perhaps this has come *more* to light in the TC9-Texas season because of the nastiness coming from the cheftestants themselves. They *know* they're going to be on camera - the good, the bad, and the ugly. And unfortunately this season has gotten extremely ugly with the comments from the cheftestants themselves. THAT is what I think we should be allowed to discuss. They're saying it; why can't we discuss it?

        Yes. I agree - there have been *some* comments by Hounds that have gone *way* beyond the pale (a recent comparison of one of the chefs to the Columbine shooter was particularly egregious, and I responded with a "wow, did you *really* just say that?" comment when I should have just reported it). And some comments about the cheftestants' physical attributes this season have gone a bit overboard, I agree.

        But overall? I think the general tenor of the threads remains on target...discussing the episode AND what has been done and said by the cheftestants, judges, and guests on those episodes. Yes, we go a little free-form on some threads, depending on the fun we've all had watching the episode. I, for one, greatly appreciate the ability to go a little free-form.

        So getting a little silly talking about the show is one thing. But it would NOT be fair if the few who get rather contentious and are intent on starting arguments on the TC threads are going to end up directing what the majority can talk about. Allow us to report the posts that go down that contentious road.

        You said "But we are looking to find a way to draw a distinction between legitimate discussion of what happens on a TV show and pointless, personal bashing of the contestants on those shows, as well as a way to ward off the inevitable 'you're a jerk for saying that' follow-up discussions."

        If something is reported as offensive, can perhaps the Mods step in to say something? As on any moderated board, a comment from TPTB usually settles down those who are about to verbally duke it out on a thread. Or, if TPTB feel it's appropriate, as the person who does the Top Chef recaps, a reminder from me at the beginning of the thread to keep the discussion about what happened and what was said, and keep personal comments about mental or physical attributes (or lack thereof) *off* the thread.

        6 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit

          And some comments about the cheftestants' physical attributes this season have gone a bit overboard, I agree.
          that's the kind of stuff i'd like to see the Mods call out...and yank. nasty weight- or appearance-based comments are completely OT and unnecessary, and often derail the conversation.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I'm confused. On a Paula Deen thread, I reported a post that called her something like a "fat, blowsy pig" and I'm pretty sure it stayed up." I don't think purely name calling posts, or posts that are insulting about appearance rather than behavior/actions/cooking should remain in any thread.

            I don't see this as an issue at all unique to the TC threads, not nearly as much as the crud that was allowed to stay on boards related to Paula Deen.

            1. re: mcf

              agreed. i meant that i'd like to see ALL of it deleted, not just on TC threads.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I know, and I think consistency by the mods in every thread will have the most impact on limiting such comments overall.

              2. re: mcf

                This issue also came up on The Chew thread and it got incredibly nasty directed at both the posters and the personalities on the show. I reported it but it seems most of the disturbing posts are still there.

                1. re: Manassas64

                  interesting...I had to report someone today for being rude...hhhmmm

          2. Right off, I think it's rather forward thinking that Mods are asking CH's for input on Moderation.

            Here's a thought, rather than delete a comment or a series of comments. Let a Mod step in, state why it's off track and let the discussion stand. Don't delete it, explain it. It's far easier to understand why a line needs to be drawn by showing it than just returning to a thread unaware of why a deletion or series of deletions was made. In other words, show us what you want BY EXAMPLE.

            34 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              "Right off, I think it's rather forward thinking that Mods are asking CH's for input on Moderation."
              Right on!

              1. re: HillJ

                I think that's a great idea. I've been participating less and less in those threads these days because I just can't get how worked up people get over a reality show.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Sometimes people get worked up because their opinions have been deleted with no explanation. Frustrated wordsmiths...bad mojo!

                  A locked thread teaches nothing and it looks really bad to go back and read a CH Team comment that the boys and girls couldn't behave themselves, so we took the crayons away. Adults deserve to be treated like adults. Moderation is not always clear and often an invisible eraser. Explain, steer the conversation, offer examples but don't punish.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    "Adults deserve to be treated like adults."

                    So people that continually refer to cheftestants as Ugly John and Shrek are acting like adults?

                    Edited: Wow, talk about a Freudian slip. I meant Ugly Chris.

                    1. re: dmjordan

                      dmj, if you are actually asking for a response to what I said I was referring to the moderation policy and how it's applied to CH's who are deleted for their comments. Yes, I believe adults should be treated like adults and if you read all of my remarks on this thread and not just the one line that you highlighted above you would see the suggestions I made to the CH Team regarding remarks as well as those made by our fellow hounds. And for the record, I also addressed my perspective on bashing ANYONE.

                      1. re: dmjordan

                        The thing about 'ugly chris' was it wasn't really a joke about his looks. It was something he was called on the show itself, and it was more of a joke about how gorgeous the other fella named chris was or at least thought he was.

                        Eventually, that element of the joke wasn't clear to all, and most people again took to calling him chris jones or moto chris or jonesy. But it wasn't intended as a cruel comment on his looks by many or most of the people who used the term.

                        That kind of thing is why I hesitate to say that any and all commentary about someones appearance should be moderated away. In context, it is often clearer whether a post is trying to be mean-spirited or not.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          But he was being called Ugly Chris here way longer than he was on TC. Was that just one episode that Ugly Chris was used? It's not like he was being called that all season.

                          1. re: dmjordan

                            I'm not really sure what that has to do with it. It was a nickname that stuck for a little while, until it became clear that some of the people reading it and even some of the people using it didn't get the joke. That's not much different from how any other nickname works.

                            The important question is whether the people using the moniker had malicious, mean-spirited intent or not. Some people probably did, while others didn't. That's basically my argument on this thread in a nutshell - context is everything in this kind of discussion.

                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            "In context, it is often clearer whether a post**er** is trying to be mean-spirited or not.
                            I agree but to me it's more the poster than the post, if I'm reading that right :>/

                    2. re: HillJ

                      "It's far easier to understand why a line needs to be drawn by showing it than just returning to a thread unaware of why a deletion or series of deletions was made."

                      that's a valid idea, although on some occasions (don't ask where as I don't remember) I've seen comments so offensive they needed to be deleted and needed no explanation as such.

                      it's a tightrope they (the mods) walk.

                      1. re: hill food

                        hi hill food. I'm not suggesting that deletions aren't warranted. But I do believe that the dilemma the OP is asking us to comment on is a by product of deletion without explanation. And, as I've said here and several times before, the fact remains CHOW writers take the same liberty the CH community takes in being critical of Food Media and News topics. Why is one "side" of this website free to express their critical pen but the community is not? I believe that "do as we say, not as we do" has worn thin. As a member of this food community I recognize the tightrope and I question why some can step over it and many more cannot.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          my wording was awkward, it would indeed be helpful to occasionally see an explanation after a (harmless but questionable) comment rather than a void, but I have seen more and more cautionary comments from them lately posted when threads start "going off the rails" and it IS cool TPTB are asking for input on this grey area.

                          1. re: hill food

                            So have I (seen a few CH Team comments) but that is not what's being asked here now. The CH Team is asking for opinions on writing behavior.

                            It's never a slow food news week on CH. What about the week of Paula Deen bashing site-wide? Man, that was brutal. And allowed and went on for days (and days in CH time is long and hard!). But there it was bashing, breaking the "sticky post' rules left and right. How do you explain the tolerance for bashing PD?

                            Well...I can't explain it.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              >>> How do you explain the tolerance for bashing PD?

                              Yeah, I got sucked into one of those.

                              Did I learn anytthing? Nope
                              Did I really have fun participating in that? Nope
                              Did i look at a few posters with less respect so i will no longer care to read what they say about food? Yep
                              Will Paula Dean feel shamed by the comments here? Nope
                              Did anything in that thread matter? Nope
                              Will I ever search for it in the future? Nope
                              Was it a waste of my time? Yep
                              Should I get a life instead of discussing food celebs that care zero about my opinion? Yep.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  I guess the only question left is why did you bother knowing all that?

                                2. re: HillJ

                                  We spent a lot of time reading those threads, and while we did remove some things, a lot of those strongly expressed opinions were on point to the news story being discussed. Those threads weren't a case of someone starting a "Paula Deen sucks, amirite?" thread and pointlessly piling on to her for the sake of something to talk about. We tried to tread lightly in terms of removing things from them, but certainly they are part of the reason why we're asking this question now.

                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                    I have no doubt you did. The story ran sitewide during a week of highly publicized national attention. The thread also allowed for a great deal of discussion and debate on the medical implications of diabetes (another topic which has been deleted on CH boards in the past) and lifestyle choices which also brings up hot buttons for all of us discussing it. And corporate sponsorship and, and, and. The door was wide open on non-food discussion.

                                    It's not easy to make everyone happy but it's The CH Team we count on to make decisions that ARE hard.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      "...but it's The CH Team we count on to make decisions that ARE hard."

                                      And then roast them slowly over a hot fire when we don't like the decision... ;-D>

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        Over hardwood, *not* charcoal, of course. The smokiness from the hardwood is always nice.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          Just trying to provide them some of the "smoke" that sometimes gets blown...

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            I don't understand the snark reference or the remarks Servorg. When the CH Team asks for input from the community they receive it. There was nothing disrespectful in my reply. I do count on the Team just like they count on the community.

                                            Shall we tip toe around the hard questions? Why?

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              You made a general and valid point that the community does rely on the Chow Team to make difficult, contentious deletion (or even failure to delete something we hate) decisions. Simply pointing out that "we" (the royal we) like the decisions when the other "poster" is getting their just dues. But when things don't break "our" way we tend to (how to say this nicely?) take it out on the Powers that Be for not seeing it "our" way... (no snark to you either meant directly or implied).

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                I appreciate the clarification, I wasn't clear on your view. I wouldn't know how the folks on the CH Team handle/react/respond to difficulty. I can only offer input when asked.

                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                HillJ, I didn't see it as snarking at you at all. Just, as Servorg said, "the royal we" in general sometimes turn and aim towards the Mods should things not go the way *we* feel. It's a tough job they have, walking that tightrope, and sometimes "we" take things personally and the only way we can lash out is back on the Mods - right or wrong.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Thanks, LindaW. I do understand Servorg's reply now. *Most* agree it's a tough tightrope and all I see here are CH's offering requested input.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    why do any posters use the term "we" in the first place? or the term "most," for that matter?

                                                    1. re: linus

                                                      I'm not sure what your question is really asking, but my initial response is that when several someones feel the same way, grammatically it becomes "we feel" vs. "John and Mary and Fred and Ginny and Sam and Matilda and I feel...."

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        but how do you know how other people feel? are they sitting right next to you? grammatically or no, shouldn't posters post their own thoughts, and not the thoughts of others?

                                                        i think the term "we" and "most," when used on the food and media boards on chowhound, is used mostly to intimidate or scold. as in, "WE don't think that way. how dare YOU?"

                                                        1. re: linus

                                                          Welllllll....I would use it when it's seen that John and Mary and Fred and Ginny and Sam and Matilda all felt the same way as I did in *their* posts. When the majority of whoever has posted on a particular thread has posted in a similar manner about a particular topic, does that not become "most"? Regardless of whoever is lurking and not posting. If those lurkers want to post their own thoughts, they are more than welcome to do so to sway the "most" their way.

                                                          I'm not really sure what this has to do with the OP's question, so I'll leave it here with my grammatical responses.

                                              3. re: LindaWhit

                                                I prefer a cedar plank, myself...

                                      2. re: hill food

                                        actually after thinking about it, adding a caution to a specific post that's allowed to exist might derail a largely innocent thread into this conversation. appropos for Site Talk, but not in the middle of "Who's the Biggest Doofus on TV?" or "Why is My Neighborhood Place now Run by Malicious Idiots? (your town)"

                                  2. re: HillJ

                                    I like this, and Linda's suggestion to wait for reports.

                                  3. Here's how I feel: Personal bashing against posters--absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable. Everyone who visits the board is entitled to his or her opinion--whether or not one agrees with them is also personal but there is no need for bullying or inappropriate language or ill words toward one another. If a poster continues with that sort of behavior, they should be blocked.
                                    Opinions on media personalities: That is a different issue. These media "chefs", "cooks", "contestants" are well-aware that they are public figures of sorts. If they did not want to draw attention to themselves, they would never put themselves on display. They are fully aware that with public attention comes public opinion--and some of it is just not nice. Many of these personalities (I use that word in a vague sense) are arrogant, unlikeable, and, at times, jerks. As long as racial slurs and cuss words are not used--well then, it's anyone's game and all posters should be able to voice their opinion.