Many readers of NancyOnNorwalk will recall that last year 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.