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Our View: Online debate needs civility, not aggression

Posted: August 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Promoting public discourse is, in the eyes of many, the No. 1 priority of newspapers and other media. But there’s a fine line between focused debate and offensive insults.

Each day, we do what seem like endless hours of brainstorming, research, interviews, fact-checking, writing and editing to give our readership the stories that are important to the SCV so we all can be better informed. And the digital age has made this all easier.

An essential part of this is website commenting boards, such as the one on

The ability of anyone from anywhere to be able to get together to trade ideas, philosophies and information is arguably one of the greatest technological breakthroughs of all time.

But the Internet is a fickle beast, and anonymity is both its biggest draw and the bane of its existence.

As was the case when CB radios became popular with the general public, being able to hide behind a “handle” or pseudonym lends an inflated sense of courage because accountability is removed from the conversation.

Without the threat of having one’s name and reputation attached to bigoted, hateful, abrasive, petty, false, hurtful statements, people tend to think they can say whatever they want.

We want to keep a cordial place to have mature discussions. So the site is moderated — not by some algorithm or piece of software to simply weed out profanity — but by the writers and editors of The Signal, your community newspaper, to keep discussion civil.

And being in the newspaper business, we’re not in favor of censorship. But we don’t hesitate to remove overtly negative personal attacks directed at writers and other people commenting on the site.

The recent trend of site-frequenters trading caustic jabs resulted in a two-day shutdown of the comments in the Opinion section.

We hope this cooling-off period will give our Opinion-section faithful some time to rethink how they approach open debate and conversation with fellow readers.

While we encourage people to freely express their opinions, views and insights about any number of Signal articles or personal-opinion columns, common decency must be considered before you post something to the public.

There’s nothing wrong with having disagreements and heated discussions within a comment chain on a particular story, but it must be done in a mature, controlled manner. Name-calling and blatantly abusive remarks are never acceptable.

We encourage everyone to read the full comments policy guidelines on our website at:

It’s OK to have a bad opinion, but not bad behavior.

Keep it civil, SCV.


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