Start the Presses: What a tangled Web we weave

The last few weeks have been filled with a larger-than-usual amount of death, violence and general mayhem.

On April 29, a woman was shot, her body dumped on the Foothill (210) Freeway. Her companion suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The day before, two men were arrested for allegedly robbing and beating a prostitute. The woman fought back, police said, dousing one of her assailants with pepper spray, and the pair fled in an orange Kia.

This week, two men were arrested on suspicion of stealing more than $10,000 in utilities from Glendale Water & Power. And the following day, Wednesday, a dead body was found in the parking lot next to Clancy's Crab Broiler near downtown Glendale. The man had been released from jail early Tuesday morning.

Crime can feel anonymous from the outside. We don't know these people, and don't know what drama, pain or simple stupidity that drove them to our pages.

But there was a common thread through these stories: Almost everyone involved have Armenian surnames.

When these stories cross my desk, it makes my stomach turn. As soon as they post on the Web, cowards who would never sign their name to a letter to the editor use our online system to spew their bigoted garbage. The system is anonymous. People still need to register, but as soon as they do, their comments post automatically. We periodically check the comments, deleting the worst of them, but some slip through.

To these bigots and trolls, I have this to say: This region has a large number of Armenian Americans. Get over it. It is no mystery why people with Armenian surnames show up in our paper. They are business leaders, community leaders, regular folk and, yes, criminals. In any group, there are good people and bad people.

If this paper served South Boston, would anyone be surprised when people with Irish surnames appeared in the police reports? Of course not.

I recently met with Elen Asatryan, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee Glendale chapter, to get her take on all this. She felt the comments should continue to be posted, unfettered.

“When you have it out in the open, you're dealing with reality,” she said. “Then we can deal with it and find solutions.”

Elen added, however, that this should apply to pure opinion. Comments that contain false statements, she said, need to be deleted.

This is not the first time I've heard this sentiment. It is much easier to deal with a threat or adversary you know exists, the logic goes. That is, if the newspaper consistently deleted such comments, people might be under the mistaken impression that our area is a prejudice- and bigotry-free zone.

As I have mentioned before in this space, a newspaper's greatest goal is to be an accurate reflection of the community it serves. Not an advocate or a detractor, but a true mirror of a place. That means showing its triumphs and its defeats; displaying its beauty and its warts.

But the goal of a paper should also be to shine a light on injustice, incompetence and unfairness. The spotlight of publicity can cause harm, as we all know. But it can also cure, acting as a disinfectant by forcing those anonymous haters into the light. The question is how.

The Los Angeles Times, this paper's parent, is trying an experiment with its breaking-news blog, L.A. Now. In order to comment on that site, readers have to log in via Facebook. The idea is pretty elegant: When you comment on a story, it shows up as part of your news feed. So, if you spew hatred, your friends will see it.

At the moment, we are unable to follow this on our main sites, burbankleader.com and glendalenewspress.com. The reasons are technical, and if you’re curious, feel free to email and ask. However, if this experiment is successful, I will push heaven and HTML to make it happen.

Dan Evans is the editor. Reach him at dan.evans@latimes.com.

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