Editorial: We Miss Our Comment Section Already
By Patrick Lynn
When we first launched the City-Times four years ago, we had no idea how popular the website and succeeding print issues would become. We can’t keep them in stock in most of our distribution points, and the website has crashed twice because of extremely heavy traffic. It shows how hungry our neighbors are for hyperlocal, honest news- and we can’t thank you all enough for the continued success of this publication.
Early on we installed a comment section on our website to allow a common place for all to discuss our news, debate the merits of local politics and exchange information relating to local events. At first, it was a success; the conversation was exciting and the care with which some researched various topics was inspirational. The hecklers and Internet trolls had been there from the beginning, but they were few and far between; with a little extra attention from our staff, along with a vulgarity filter, we were quickly able to weed out the bad seeds.
But recent months have brought a change to that public forum, often becoming a place for misinformed people to spread inaccurate information, overreactionary website visitors to call each other names and small-minded people to belittle the beliefs of others. The number of troublemakers is small compared with the number of our daily readers, but their number is large enough to have taken this website hostage, removing attention from the news and turning this website into a near- gossip rag. It was enough to garner complaints from many of our readers. Some even likened the comment section to the antics they’d witnessed during a meeting of the Stevens Point School Board.
The intention of the comment section was to provide space for conversation within the framework of the news we provide. Our staff works countless hours every week to provide you with local news in an unbiased and fact-based manner. Unfortunately, some of those commenting within that public forum brought so much malicious speech and closed-mindedness we were faced with a very difficult decision: spending extra time we really didn’t have creating a policy for every conceivable situation within our comment section, heightened policing of the comment section, or removal of the section altogether. We chose the latter.
Within the next few weeks we’ll be installing a Facebook comment section to this site, along with making a few other changes to our format. Until then, we encourage you to continue your conversation in locally-owned coffee shops, taverns and other public space- including our Open Letters section. We hope you employ them all, because the conversation about upcoming elections, local events and local government should never stop.