When I caught the Times Union editing my blog headlines without my permission…

It may have seemed sudden to you, my beloved blog readers, as to why I simply quit the TU blogfarm earlier this year.  Yes, their heavy-handed response to my April Fool’s Day post – to shut down my blog and publicly vilify me in social media and on WAMC talk radio – was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

But the camel’s back was already laden with other instances of Times Union interference.  Included in those interferences was something that the TU swore they would never do … but I caught them in the lie.

Let me explain.

The Times Union’s blog platform runs on a WordPress engine.  And with WordPress, you could add simple HTML prompts and scripts to your blog – say, if you wanted words to be bold-faced or underlined or in Italics – a simple <b> </b> or <i> </i> or <u> </u> would work.

One day, I wanted to try something.  If the HTML codes worked in the blog bodies … would they work in the blog headlines?  Say, if I wanted to italicize a book title or add bolding to an emphasis point, would it work?

Sure enough, it did.

And hey, if I can figure out an exploit, then I’m going to use it.  First, I tried adding bolding and italicization to my posts.  It worked.  Then I figured I’d add some Unicode images – heck, maybe a picture of a sun instead of typing the word “sun,” something to stand out.

Okay, now let’s try changing the color of the font.  <font color=”red”> </fontcolor> I now have a red text that can be read like a rooster’s head.  Get it, Fred?  Nuff ‘ced.

In February 2017, I wrote about a broken Coca-Cola soda machine at a local Five Guys restaurant.  Part of the soda machine’s logotype was broken … leaving half a Coca-Cola logo on the machine.

Looked sorta like this.

It’s the real thing … sort of. Photo by Chuck Miller.

So I wrote a blog post about drinking some Oca-Cola.  And in the blog header … I added a little Coca-Cola red to the headline.

Here’s the original post, as listed on archive.org.

A few weeks later, I noticed that I had received comments on the post.  Normally I don’t expect old blog posts to receive comments, but I was curious as to what might have spurred the attention.

And I found it.

Take a look and see if you notice anything different about this post.

Uh huh.  Now you lose the joke about the product being oca-Cola, don’t you?   Yeah.  Now the headline of the blog post is ruined.

I looked at several of my other blog posts.  They were also summarily edited.   The HTML bolding and italicizing was removed, and the headlines summarily edited – without my permission, knowledge or consent.

I contacted the person in charge of the Times Union’s blogfarm, Shannon Fromma.  She took over when the TU’s previous blogboss, Mike Huber, left the paper.

I brought the edits to her attention, and asked her if I should now be concerned that an outside party has permission to edit and adjust my blogs without my consent or knowledge?

She said she had no idea why this had happened, and she would investigate.

A day later, I was contacted by Trudi Shaffer, another person in the Times Union hierarchy.  She informed me that someone had left an uncompleted italics tag in their blog headline that morning, and it made all the TU’s web content appear in italics.

Wow, good thing they didn’t leave an uncompleted Comic Sans font, amirite?

I expressed my extreme disappointment that the TU felt the need to update and modify my content without my knowledge, permission or consent.  If there were issues involving adding HTML content to blog headlines, then it should have been addressed privately and directly, and there should not have been an over-encompassing stomp on my blog to change that.

But it left a very sour taste in my mouth – the fact that these changes were made WITHOUT the TU blogboss at the time, Shannon Fromma, getting in touch with me about the issue.  Apparently as far as she was concerned, I wasn’t worth the time to draw her away from her coupon-clipping to merit a call or an e-mail to me about the situation before it happened.

That just showed me that I have to look out for #1 … because the Times Union was treating me like #2.

Less than two weeks later … I wrote an April Fool’s Day blog post, my blog was suspended, and I was trashed online and on the radio by Rex Smith, the Times Union’s chief editor.

There was no reason left for me to write my blog under the Times Union’s aegis.  They already proved to me that they could edit my content without my knowledge or consent.  They already adjusted my headlines.  What’s to stop them from changing the content IN the blog?  What’s to stop them from taking out all the vowels in my blog post as some sort of editor’s joke?  What’s to stop them from claiming that my Collarworld or Iverhill stories were their corporate property?  Heck, what’s to stop them from using my old blog posts as part of a Big Hearst ego-stroke?

Nothing.  Apparently it’s okay for the Times Union to use a 2015 blog post of mine to promote themselves as being the smartest company in a 2017 corporate trivia event.  Always being classy, Big Hearst…

This was upsetting, demoralizing, demeaning and reprehensible.  The level of communication provided by the TU to its community bloggers had deteriorated in 2017 to the point where the bloggers weren’t even truly part of the TU conversation.

In fact, if I’m being totally honest … it was an abusive relationship.

And I’ve been the victim of abusive relationships in the past.

No way did I want to be part of another abusive relationship.

So I had to get away from the abuser.

Plain and simple.

There was no turning back.  The TU didn’t give a rat’s tail about me … and as far as I could tell, they never did.  So when the April Fool’s Day post came and went … and its aftermath … I knew right then and there that all I was for them was a conduit to bring blogclicks and internet traffic to Big Hearst’s coffers, and to receive nothing but scorn, aloofness and marginalization in return.

Yeah.

A few months later, I saw the same heavy-handed tactics applied to two of my TU blog friends who dared to post their personal #metoo stories on their blogs – the blogs that the Times Union swore would never be edited without their consent.

But in reality, that wasn’t the case, now was it?