Editorial: Decency, morals open the way for civil talk

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

Perhaps there is a way for Albertlea.com to silence its critics by recognizing their concerns and making changes. As it stands, the Web site provides all sorts of criticism, sarcasm and vituperation but little in the way of solutions, fairness and sensibility.

The Web site made news Monday when the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce refused to allow the site to advertise on Chamber-run TV screens in the Freeborn County Government Center. The Chamber denied the request because it says the site portrays Albert Lea in a negative manner and has some sexual content.

The Internet provides an opportunity for all Americans to mass communicate and exercise their free-speech rights. There’s no argument that the Internet is a valuable tool.

But free speech and community responsibility are two different things. The Albert Lea Tribune defends anyone’s right to free speech, including Albertlea.com. We agree that an online discussion forum on Albert Lea is a good idea. In fact, some good debate happens there. But wouldn’t it make more sense for Albertlea.com or any forum for public debate &045; not mere tavern talk &045; to have rules that take into consideration decency, local morals and honesty?

For instance, if someone says something negative about you, shouldn’t he or she at least have the nerve to include his or her name? That’s honesty. People deserve to know their accusers.

And as adults, don’t you prefer to engage in civil debate without name-calling and vulgar terms? Decency and morals open the way for civil talk.

Frequently when criticisms are made &045; whether in person or in print &045; the people being criticized will respond with a request for solutions. There’s a lack of solutions in the criticisms on the Albertlea.com forum.

So here are our solutions for Albertlea.com: 1. Require posts to include a name and hometown of the poster, and then verify each post’s authenticity. 2. Disallow vulgar terms. 3. Cut the name-calling.

If the site aspires to a higher level of public discussion, the people being criticized will feel safe enough to respond. And that will result in a balanced debate. And that could result in the fair portrayal of Albert Lea sought by the Chamber and critics of the Web site.