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Our opinion: Why turn on reader comments for some stories ... - Bemidji Pioneer

Author: Bemidji Pioneer

Source: https://www.bemidjipioneer.com/opinion/editorials/our-opinion-why-turn-on-reader-comments-for-some-stories-because-dialogue-helps-us-understand

Image of Our opinion: Why turn on reader comments for some stories ... - Bemidji Pioneer

A newspaper’s role is to inform.Certainly, doing so means telling readers about the happenings in our community and region, but we know a good part of the information process also comes from dialogue, engagement, conversation and, at times, debate.With that in mind, the Pioneer recently began allowing reader comments on certain stories on our website.The system went live last week and eventually will include other Forum Communications Co.newspapers.A few particulars: Anyone can view article comments, but only users who are registered or subscribed will be allowed to comment on articles published on FCC news sites.Individual readers can hide comments from others from their personal views. A policy and guidelines statement created by our company says “We believe firmly in the First Amendment, which grants, among other rights, the freedom of speech and expression.Our aim is to uphold these freedoms while also working to ensure our channels do not become a platform for inciting violence or harassment.“In an effort to maintain a safe space for all within our social channels, we will not tolerate:Profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs or personal attacks;Harassment of others or inappropriate commentary regarding tragedies;Threats of violence;Spam, including irrelevant links or photos not pertaining to our content;Off-topic comments.”Importantly, the company reserves the right to hide or remove comments.Those who abuse the rules could be blocked.Also, comments won’t be allowed on all stories.Generally, our company policy is that “if comments can enhance the experience and engagement of the reader, based on the story subject, they should be added.”Examples include stories that report on various trends (crime in the region, for instance), topics of community interest, investigative stories and sports commentary and analysis.Years ago, newspapers within our company allowed nearly unfettered reader comments, and, at times, it got ugly.Eventually, the decision was made to disallow comments. Of course, we publish news on social media sites, including Facebook, and readers there have been able to comment on all sorts of stories and topics.With our new system, the company will use software to help in the moderation process.Certain comments — those that are uncivil, those that include certain language and so forth — will automatically be blocked.Editors and reporters will oversee the rest.Genuine comments that land within the hoped-for decorum and propriety will stand.Actually, they are encouraged.Why?Because courteous conversations — even among those with whom we disagree — help us learn more about where we live and who we live with.We should be able to have debates and still be polite and civil.Again, not all stories will offer reader comments. But for the stories that do, please feel free to participate in conversations that further explain the news, how it affects you and how we can be better as a community.Too often these days, discussions quickly erode into a quagmire of contempt, sarcasm and outright vicious arguments.We see it everywhere — on social media, on talk shows, on the street.However, encouraging dialogue — true back-and-forth that helps us better understand important issues — must be the goal.

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