Editorial - Time to clean up online debateWhatever happened to respectful, thoughtful debate? Why do some people feel the need to trash others personally instead of acknowledging their point and then offering one of their own in a calm, rational manner?
Whatever happened to respectful, thoughtful debate?
Why do some people feel the need to trash others personally instead of acknowledging their point and then offering one of their own in a calm, rational manner?
Name calling, finger pointing and bullying should have been left in the sandbox. Yet, too frequently, that type of behavior keeps popping up in the comment section of the Echo Press Web site, www.echopress.com.
It’s time to clean up the online debate.
It’s fine to disagree with someone and putting a little heat behind an argument is understandable. But when posters use strong-arm tactics like intimidation, insults and personal attacks, they clearly cross the line. And they face consequences – including being banned from posting any more comments, a step the newspaper had to take this week.
The newspaper has long been a supporter of robust debate. But that debate must be open to everyone – not just a select few who repeatedly berate anyone who happens to disagree with them.
The newspaper’s comment board, although monitored by readers and not the newspaper, should not be “hijacked” by a select few who try to bully others by prying into their personal lives or attacking them on a personal level.
Those who post comments deserve better than that.
When people offer an opinion, they should not feel threatened or belittled. They should not fear reprisals of being called stupid or other school-yard adjectives. They should not have to put up with others trying to guess who they are, where they live or what they do.
They should feel good about themselves for taking the time to share their views. No one, after all, knows all the answers to every topic all the time (as much as they think they do!).
Some seem to think of the comment section as their own little political fiefdom where they twist every comment into a vicious political feud that only they can “win.”
The comment board, when used constructively, is an excellent way for the community to discuss a wide range of issues – from the fun and frivolous to the sad and serious. It’s immediate, informal and interactive.
Comments that have been posted online have also triggered good story ideas for the newspaper. A story we did a couple of years ago about a boy who was sexually abused by his guardian, for example, generated an outpouring of online questions about why the child was placed in the guardian’s care. We did a follow-up story addressing the questions.
If you’ve never posted a comment on our online site, we encourage you to do so. It’s a simple, quick way to offer feedback on a story or a letter.
If you haven’t posted in awhile because your last comment was slammed by someone else, we urge you to give it another try. With help from readers, we’re trying to make the comment board user-friendly and respectful to others. Remember, you can report suspected violations to us with a click of a button.
And if you’re one of those posters who makes disrespectful remarks, tries to guess someone else’s identity or finds enjoyment in criticizing someone personally merely for sharing an opinion – knock it off. You’ve been warned.
A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is an appropriate end to this editorial: “Men are respectable only as they respect.”
Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper’s editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporters Celeste Beam and Mike Enright.