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Hello, Lawrence! An introduction, and a change on LJWorld.com
It’s been three weeks since I took over as digital editor of LJWorld.com and the Lawrence Journal-World, and in the whirlwind of starting a new job and clawing my way through the dozens of cardboard boxes that now clutter my home, I’ve neglected to say hello and introduce myself to you.
My most sincere apologies.
As Jonathan Kealing noted in September, I was a reporter for Journal-World – first as a general assignment reporter, then covering the education beat – before I went to cover news in Chicago. I worked most recently as online content producer for the Chicago Reader, the city’s venerable alt-weekly. I also covered public health for the online Chi-Town Daily News and wrote about the circus that is Chicago politics for the Chicago Current, a short-lived political journal. Along the way I freelanced for the Chicago Tribune, RedEye and other publications.
What Jonathan didn’t mention is that I’m taller than Chicago’s last two mayors, one of which castigated me at a press conference for a question he didn’t like. I’m friends with a friend of Steve Bartman. I grew up in Kansas City, Mo. The strangest interview I’ve ever done was with Ron Jeremy, who I believe recorded the conversation and was more candid than I care to remember. I was once within mere feet of the Stanley Cup and squealed with joy. I did. I squealed.
I’m quite pleased to return to Lawrence. I lived here for about two years, attending graduate school at Kansas University and then working for the Journal-World. In my time away, I’ve thought more and more about this town. I’ve thought about the ties that bind it together, from a unique homesteading history to the 2008 NCAA basketball championship (I still get chills from watching “The Shot”).
I’ve learned more about the social fabric of Lawrence (if you’ve not read “This is America?” you’re missing out.) And I’ve thought about how passionate people are about their town.
Yes, I’ve thought a lot about passion. That’s one reason I decided to return to Lawrence; people care deeply about what happens here. I feel very strongly about the role of local news organizations in a community. Yes, print journalism is in a tough spot, but journalists like the ones that work at the News Center are some of the smartest and most passionate people I know. You may not agree with everything that’s written in the Journal-World, but without it, there would be an unacceptable information void.
The passion Lawrencians have for their town is obvious on LJWorld.com. It shows up in different ways, such as the fantastic Dear Lawrence photo project. It is especially obvious in the hundreds of comments posted each day on this site.
The steady flow of discussion proves that people here believe their city, state and country can be a better place. I firmly believe that the exchange of viewpoints, opinions and facts can make us more informed, and perhaps even more enlightened.
But it also has its drawbacks. Too often, online discussions devolve into name-calling, unaccountable invective and general nastiness that take away from the communal experience of our lives in Lawrence. I simply ask you engage in respectful discussion with each other. Banter is one thing; cheap shots and derogatory insults are another.
You may have also noticed a change that occurred on LJWorld.com yesterday evening. We’re trying something new, and allowing only verified users to comment on stories such as those that involve a death under investigation or a sexual assault. These stories often attract the worst comments, those that are insensitive to grieving families or those that offer little more than baseless – and potentially libelous – speculation.
My hope is that users of these boards will foster a respectful and thoughtful exchange of ideas, even when other say things that are counter to their opinions or ideas. It’s very easy to fire back a knee-jerk reaction. It’s harder to sit for a moment and think how to best respond to a comment – if at all.
In my endeavor to keep LJWorld.com a welcoming community, there are a few things I won’t stand for. In the Harry Potter series, there are the Unforgiveable Curses, which result in death and maiming. Here, there are Unforgiveable Comments, which result in a comment’s removal and possibly banishment of the user who leaves them.
In accordance to the terms of service, comments that are libelous or defamatory are unacceptable. I hope you’ll refrain from racist, sexist or otherwise insensitive or unnecessarily needling comments, especially when it comes to our neighbors who find themselves in the paper, either by choice or not. “Outing” users by referencing what users may presume to be their real names will not be tolerated.
And I’ll ask that users stay on topic in discussions. Arguments between a few users or long missives that detract from the point waylay many discussions. If you see a comment that violates the terms of service, please flag it for removal. Together we can make LJWorld.com, KUSports.com, Lawrence.com, WellCommons and Sunflower Horizons fun places where we can learn from each other.
I think these are fair parameters, and I think the overall community appreciates having a spot to discuss the news of the day. No doubt you’ll disagree with some of my decisions down the line, but I invite you to message me through the site or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’m happy to explain my position and listen to yours.
I’ve enjoyed interacting with some of you so far, and look forward to getting to know this community better.