To the editor:
I am writing in regards to a policy at the Lawrence Journal-World that seems to be intended in the spirit of free speech and the great “commons” of ideas: the online comment function. These comments do not, however, encourage civil discourse. Sometimes, they are the benign evidence of the trolls of the Internet; worse, they can show everyone the visceral mentality of people who are allowed to hide behind anonymity to trade vicious speculation and attacks.
I am not alone in this observation. Even some of your own reporters have agreed with me that the comments following online articles do not serve the function of increasing ideas in the public sphere or do so at great cost.
I read the paper version of this publication, read it online and read several other papers. From these materials, I see creative ways of allowing comments. There are alternatives. If you must include them, you could at the very least make them accessible by another click, another screen away, as the old New York Times chooses to do.
When a tragedy occurs in our community, victims and their friends do not deserve the kinds of speculative, rude, specious and downright mean comments from posters that follow at the bottom of an article. No amount of forum monitoring can undo the damage. Further, wouldn’t your resources be better spent than policing a forum? The Journal-World would do better to take advantage of the technologies available that can separate their journalism from what passes as “comments” on its published articles.