Editorial: Good debate; bad debate

Published 8:48 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comments after stories at the Tribune’s Web site can be helpful and be hurtful. Unfortunately, no matter how many times the comments are helpful, people tend to remember the hurtful ones.

There have been many times when the people making comments are constructive, finding out further information at public sites, offering encouragement or tackling tough issues.

There are other times, though, where they call each other names, spread falsehoods and disparage anyone for the slightest reasons.

Email newsletter signup

Is it better to allow a discussion, even in the anonymous world of the Internet, or it is better to not?

The best answer is to allow it but with monitoring. Our feeling is the people who post are better at having constructive dialogue than they were when the Tribune’s Web site was new but now and then they lapse into petty ways. With continued enforcement, the dialogue will improve.

Sometimes, people want to know what gets their comments removed. There is a “Terms of Use” link next to the box where comments are made, but it is long. Here is the easy answer:

♦ Don’t call each other names. In critical thinking, it is called ad hominem. This is when people attack the person rather than the issue at hand. You call someone an “idiot,” and the comment will be removed.

♦ Don’t claim someone has committed a crime when they have not. This is called libel. You can say they have been charged with something or they allegedly committed the crime, but you can’t say, “Joe beats his wife,” unless he has been convicted of it by a court of law.

♦ Don’t swear and don’t fake swear. Even “#&@%” will get your comment removed. And don’t be vulgar or repugnant. It’s just not pertinent to the debate.

♦ Don’t be a repeat offender. If you become problematic, we have the power to remove every comment you ever made.

We want good dialogue like everybody else. We aren’t always able to watch all the posts all at once, but we watch them enough to remove the worst comments and get rid of repeat offenders.