Our Opinion: Keep the comments clean

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Technology has made it much easier for us to reach out to and hear from our readers, and for that we are grateful.

But, sometimes the ease of accessibility and ability to say whatever one thinks in a public forum has had the opposite effect than we planned.

Itís the nature of the internet for people to use screen names to anonymously post thoughts and opinions without people knowing the source. In a small community like ours, that anonymity is something sacred for those who have opinions but worry about political and social repercussions.

Other times, people use their anonymity to be cruel or unfair.

One of the most difficult times we have deals with crime stories. When it comes to writing crime stories, especially the more sensitive stories, it is a team effort deciding what information is pertinent while also accurately presenting the information provided by the investigating officer so people understand the alleged crime that took place.

When it comes to some of the cases we see, the details are numerous and stomach churning. Itís disturbing to think of what some people have to go through, and what our local police have to see and hear, which is why it is our job to write the stories so others can slow down the rumors and have a basic understanding of what happened.

It is also our job to protect the identity of the victims in the case. This is often where commenters can do more harm than good.

Last week, we had a story about an individual who was arrested on child molestation charges. We talked extensively about how to keep the identities of the minors as secret as possible. Our process includes not indicating a victimís age, or even a gender. Because, letís face it, we live in a small community in which most people know who knows who. We donít do this to be difficult. We do this to protect the identities of those who are vulnerable. Any comments or indications that go against that rule of thumb are removed.

Then, we have the commenters who have used our website as a virtual bullying space, which cannot be tolerated.

Above the comments section, we ask this of our readers: ďPlease be respectful of others and try to stay on topic.Ē

This is very important. We are not a big-city paper where people donít know their neighbors. We know each other. For the most part, we like to believe we are a close-knit community who appreciates and cares for one another.

Some days, it feels like we are not that type of community at all when people do not like someone or something.

Case-in-point, we recently published a story about a local program that has made great strides in promoting our area. We can understand talking politics and, more importantly, understand wanting to express your disdain for a project, but you cannot attack people personally and think that is OK. Whether it is the subject of the story or the writer of the story, there is no reason to call people names and be nasty.

We are constantly urging our young people to refrain from bullying of any type, whether it be in person or on the internet, so we have to set an example.

We urge you to use the websiteís comment section for its intended use: Express your interest or concerns, but donít use our website as an avenue to stir a personal agenda.