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Comments Policy: 2021 Reminder

NoN reader reacts to recent “dialogue” in the comments section. (Edvard Munch)

Many readers of NancyOnNorwalk will recall that in 2019 we contemplated killing our comments section as the tone and tenor of reader comments and interactions had taken a nosedive.

It’s happening again, in full force and with the kind of vitriol and disrespect that, sadly, have become pervasive in public discourse.

When NancyOnNorwalk started, part of our mission was to provide a ‘digital town square’ where citizens could come together and discuss – with civility and respect – local issues and news of the day.

But in today’s divisive world, civility and respect are a shrinking commodity, particularly among commenters who choose anonymity.

Many of you have suggested that we disallow anonymous commenters. Couldn’t we require ‘single sign-on’ using Google or Facebook? Create individual user accounts? Verify all names and email addresses?

In theory it sounds like a good idea. But in practice, well, it’s just not that easy to accomplish. Anyone can make up a name, attach a gmail account to it and hide behind a pseudonym.

The technical and human resources required to verify identities is an uphill challenge even for the largest news outlets and social media platforms. As a nonprofit news outfit, with a shoestring budget and staff, that task is well beyond our capacity.

Another consideration is the handful of readers who need the protection of anonymity to participate in our digital town square: city employees, front-line healthcare workers, teachers, and others who might be putting their job on the line to comment, or whose terms of employment prevent them from commenting publicly. We will continue to allow these readers to post anonymously.

That said, from now on we will be tougher on those of you who insist on hiding behind a moniker.

Don’t get us wrong. We encourage the discourse, as it allows for multiple points of view to be expressed in this digital town square. Our comments section is a unique arena where we can discuss controversial issues, share our local views, and possibly solve some of the issues facing our city. But we can’t solve anything through name-calling, bullying or hateful language.

As local journalism falters across the US, NancyOnNorwalk continues to shine light for all of us in Norwalk.  And for the most part, our commenters have been respectful. It’s the handful spouting vitriol who poison the air of our digital town square.

Going forward, we will insist that comments be:

  • Respectful – If you disagree with an article or comment by others, do so with respect. We are not a social media platform, so if you want to name-call and bash a local politician, political party, or your next-door neighbor, this is not the place to do so. We are not a platform for hateful, divisive commentary, for trolls, or for hate groups seeking to stir things up.
  • Civil – We all have different beliefs, opinions, points of view, and we encourage readers to speak freely. But please do so in a kind and civil manner. It’s not hard. If you disagree with someone, that’s fine, but we won’t tolerate posts that are hateful or include threatening or bullying language.
  • Thoughtful and Constructive  – Does your comment add information, context, a fresh point of view, or other value to the original article? Is it different from comments you’ve published previously, or simply repeat points you’ve made previously? Are you being fair?

 

NancyOnNorwalk is an award-winning news site, in large part because we can engage citizens at the local level in a way most news organizations no longer can. Let’s keep our ‘digital town square’ going, and let our lively conversations reflect the amazing city we call home.

 

Editor’s note: This article is being periodically reposted to allow everyone to see it.

20 comments

JustATaxpayer September 21, 2020 at 7:52 am

In today’s political environment and cancel culture, conservatives are not free to express their opinions without repercussions. For example, the Spanish language commentator for the Carolina Panthers was let go over his support of our President.

https://www.foxnews.com/sports/ex-panthers-spanish-radio-announcer-qanon-trump-support

If folks can show tangible examples of people being fired from their jobs for being against the President, I say time to get rid of comments. Time to get rid of Facebook, Twitter and the like

Kay Anderson September 21, 2020 at 7:56 am

This is a welcome message for readers. We who comment would do well to strive for the level of clarity and civility we read in NON articles.
Thank you.

Marie L Reynolds September 21, 2020 at 7:59 am

Thank you for the work you and your staff do to report on important local issues and to keep community discourse civil.

stuart J garrelick September 21, 2020 at 9:16 am

BRAVO!
Well said.
I have always stood behind my comments attaching my name and resent those who won’t do likewise. Except in the cases of whistle blower anonymity, I think it shows a form of cowardice.
Let’s play by Nancy’s rules and stand behind what we say. That would be a good start to talking to each other and dealing, if not curing, our divides.
Stuart Garrelick

Bobby Lamb September 21, 2020 at 10:33 pm

I applaud the intent – but I must say, some of the most egregious comments are made by people using their real names. I hope those folks will take this message to heart and tone it down.

DryAsABone September 22, 2020 at 8:24 am

Silence Dogwood,Harry Meanwell,Alice Addrtongue. Ring a bell?
If people do not like the message,do not read it and move on!
Freedom to post opinions was controlled by mainstream print and when the newspaper circulation vanished the web took over. And then the attorney’s went to work on platforms and content changed.
The fictional version of our nations history when it comes to “free speech” is far different than the reality, especially now.
NoN does a great job covering the news/events. The comments are optional viewing.The identity of the commenter is meaningless.

Thomas Belmont September 22, 2020 at 12:55 pm

I have Proof for everything I say. I believe I am not caustic and I never use foul language. I have no malice toward the opposing opinion yet look to the Speaker of the House of the US Congress and hear it yourself.

Steve Mann September 25, 2020 at 10:07 am

These days, it’s important to realize that insults, foul language and other derisive comments do absolutely nothing to get your point across. At least not to anyone worth getting your point across to! That behavior may express your anger, and frustration, and venting is sometimes needed, but if ones’ goal is meaningful and constructive dialog, there’s no better way to shut off effective communication than to spewing an insult.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”.

Respectable Citizen September 25, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Great policy! Not sure why people feel the need to act so ugly towards those who have an opposing view. If you feel you have a valid argument with ACTUAL facts, there’s no need to respond with such aggression…

If this policy doesn’t resonate, I think the comments should go. This has been a resourceful forum of information. Messages of hate, lies will only take away from it.

Psmitty September 26, 2020 at 6:19 pm

In the immortal words of Taylor Swift:
“Say it in the street that’s a knockout
But you say it in a tweet that’s a cop out
(And I’m just like ‘hey are you okay’)”

Celeste Champagne September 28, 2020 at 10:12 am

I respectfully suggest that NANCY ON NORWALK follow the requirements as Dan Woog’s “06880” publication: Full name and eMail in the sending, and full name will be shown in the comment. It’s more businesslike and proper and holds to the standards you are attempting to create.

Red headed movie star September 30, 2020 at 10:15 am

I believe that after we submit a comment it is then reviewed prior to being posted. Don’t post the comments that are out of line and rude. I do not want to leave my name…to speak before our City’s Common Council and other departments we give our name and street. I fear retribution in the form of delays, lost information if I need to deal with City Departments in the future. An additional example, I do not agree with changing the name of Columbus school, due to ignoring the historical context of Columbus’s discovery in light of the world in 1492 but will not write to the Board of Education as because I fear negative remarks. It is a sad time in our country.

Seems Perone’s major contribution is missing meetings. Hmmmm, I find that quite odd - and disengaging as well. September 30, 2020 at 12:13 pm

I think the new policy is a great idea . Nancy on Norwalk can and does set a high standard for public discourse.
I am a huge fan and supporter.
James Kahmann

Not so Non Partisan January 26, 2021 at 12:39 am

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch blasted so-called cancel culture and a “woke orthodoxy” that he described as “awful” and suggested was a threat to the free exchange of ideas in the U.S. and around the world.

“For those of us in the media, there’s a real challenge to confront: a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate, to ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential,” Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp., said in recorded remarks while receiving an award from the Australia Day Foundation, according to The New York Times.

“This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility,” Murdoch added. “Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.”

stuart garrelick January 26, 2021 at 1:14 pm

I do not favor censorship- We have to hear those with opposing views to begin to understand them and try to resolve differences.
I am also not a fan of political correctness, thinking this has some value but has gone way too far.
I would be fine if NON wanted to enforce their policy if they just redacted with a thick black magic marker any words felt to violate
the criteria of respectful, civil, thoughtful and constructive. This would still allow publication of these comments while emphasizing the lack of standards of the writer. Possibly as valuable to know as the actual message.

Michael McGuire January 26, 2021 at 1:27 pm

I will steadfastly support and defend free speech, as long as it’s not truly dangerous such as “yelling fire in a crowded theater”. To take an extreme example I’ll defend anyone’s right to call me, or whomever, a racist, a seditionist, a homophobe, you fill in the blank. That is your 1st Amendment right. But it is also my 1st Amendment right to push back and call you out, highlight facts which support my position and ask you for facts which support yours.

That has always been what made us, the United States of America, great – free speech. It’s a self-policing process of natural selection which weeds out the bad ideas/actors and elevators good ideas. Collectively we are a lot smarter than as individuals.

Being critical of leadership, ideas, and actions (or inaction) is the foundation of our strength as a nation. It’s in our DNA. It is essential for our Country, it’s like air.

Therefore, I don’t think we need editorial oversight. We need readers of NoN to stand up to vicious or bombastic rhetoric and call it for what it is, and to do so openly, publicly, fact based, and with compassion and wit.

Yes, a certain amount of trolling will happen that is just a given. But instead of waiting for someone else to pick up the ball and push back, can I suggest you pick up the ball and push back. If you don’t, eventually someone will make those decisions for you, and perhaps they will consider you the troll.

So Nancy, my position is to let the comments be the comments.

John Miller January 26, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Thanks for the reminder Nancy. Everyone needs to lower the temperature and be respectful, myself included.

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