Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bucking the Trend

Everyone complains that the media only focuses on the negative, that the press goes off, half-baked and without a clue.

So when the media opened its doors to the public to sound off on the great issues of the day, the result has been online message boards and an upsurge of letters to the editor filled with negative expressions of half-baked ideas. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but most of the opinion we hear these days is that the other jerk is an idiot scoundrel socialist Nazi communist tea-bagging left-wing nutjob godless mouth-breathing racist. Fill in the blanks. It doesn't matter anymore, because the audience is sick of the noise.

And this stuff is everywhere. TV. Radio. Blogs. Tweets. Facebook. It doesn't enlighten. Everyone talks over one another. Everyone plays under the assumed rule that the loudest screamer wins. Civic discourse these days more closely resembles a blatherer's version of a bar fight.

Call it diabolical, call it un-American, but we believe that the majority of our readers adhere to higher standards. We may be bucking the media trend here, but we shall insist on civility in the expression of opinions.

Several weeks ago I promised that we would do a better job deleting the maddening anonymous posts that are simply nasty diatribes from our online comment boards. And on Tuesday, Royal Calkins described The Herald's new commitment toward civility in Letters to the Editor.

"(W)hile we will continue to publish some of the lesser letters, at least those of them that don't sink too close to slander, libel or horrible taste, we will redouble our efforts to give priority to those that explain positions, that provide information, that amount to more than an adult version of name-calling," Calkins wrote.

Our message is simple: We welcome your disagreement. We admit that our perspective might be different than yours. You can disagree with the last letter writer. We'd love to hear your informed opinion about things. But, when you do, don't publicly demean yourself — and others who might otherwise support your position — with the personal attacks.

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