Summit Daily editorial: Let’s keep it classy in our comment sections
Are letters to the editor dead? And did civility get thrown out along with them? Probably, the answer to both questions is no.
However, we at the Summit Daily know for sure that the most robust and immediate conversations about what’s going on in our community are taking place in the comment threads on our website and on our Facebook page.
As reader feedback has shifted from letters to online forums, the Summit Daily has given up considerable control. We don’t screen and process online comments the way we do with letters to the editor. There really isn’t much of a filter. That’s the beauty, and the curse, of it. As long as you’re logged into your Facebook account, you can leave a comment that will rattle like a tin can from a story’s tail for all of eternity.
Yes, we try to make sure foul or libelous language doesn’t stick around for long; we delete get-rich-quick spam; and we attempt to manage the trolls who are eager to mark their digital territory and harass other commenters. But mostly, we let folks duke it out. The discussions can sometimes get pretty salty, but, by and large, our commenters play nice.
It is a rare thing for us to ban someone outright from commenting on our stories or Facebook posts. In fact, it’s something we’ve done maybe twice in the past three years. One of those commenters was banned just this week.
Now would be a good time to explain why we took that course of action. Number 1, we have reason to believe the person was using an alias. Number 2, the person has grown increasingly insulting toward other commenters, calling them names (e.g., “Gaper”) and assassinating their character (e.g. suggesting someone had a incestuous relationship with his sister). Number 3, the person commented so frequently and so negatively that his voice created an increasingly unwelcoming atmosphere that excluded the possibility of other voices.
The person who was banned would like you to believe we were upset he disagreed with a recent editorial on the gas tax. (Aren’t the Summit Daily folks thin-skinned? Boy, they can’t even take a little dissent.) In fact, that comment was absolutely not the reason the person was banned. We get criticized continuously in comment threads. It goes with the territory, and we welcome it. To be clear: Criticizing the Summit Daily, or the Summit Daily’s viewpoints, will not get you banned. Being hostile and rude toward other commenters? That — that will get you banned.
So this marks a good opportunity to enumerate the basic rules of engagement on our comment threads: Be a real person; maintain a civil tone, even when strongly disagreeing with someone; don’t use curse words gratuitously; don’t call people names or commit ad hominem attacks; and refrain from excessive posting.
Why are we bringing this up? You may have noticed that the past two Saturdays we’ve run a new feature called “The Dialogue.” This column features some of the best exchanges on our comment threads. We’d like to expand this feature to more days, and, to do that, we must make sure that our comment sections are inviting places for discussion. We invite you to come join the conversation.
Hey, you can even send us a letter, if you like. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure they’re no more than 300 words.
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