Do rude comments on articles and letters posted on the Mountain Xpress website deter greater participation among our readers? That’s the sense among staffers who follow these online exchanges.
That’s why we’re challenging our readers to strive for more civil, respectful discourse in the online comments on our site. To be sure, discourteous comments are not a new phenomenon or one limited to Xpress. Other news organizations have struggled with the same issue — some of them eliminating online comments altogether, shunting them to Facebook or otherwise limiting the discussion.
Here at Xpress, however, we still see value in providing this platform for the public to discuss the issues we face as a community. In fact, an essential part of Xpress’ mission is to strengthen democracy by promoting thoughtful dialogue.
It’s a balancing act, to be sure, since readers often express strong — and varied— opinions on a number of topics. But we want to encourage folks to express those views civilly and respectfully, in a way that fosters greater participation and propels the conversation forward.
Xpress already has a policy in place defining what is impermissible on the site, including personal attacks, inflammatory and off-topic remarks, and libelous comments. We also have a system to address those issues by deleting problematic comments, moving commenters to moderation and — as a last resort — banning particular accounts.
Effective immediately, Xpress editors intend to firmly enforce those rules to maintain the spirit of civil, respectful discourse. As a reminder, you’ll notice a new message at the bottom of online articles and letters to reinforce that point.
Are Xpress readers up to the civility challenge? We certainly think so.
As always, please let us know your thoughts. Politely, of course.