Good advice for making online comments: Be nice, tell the truth
The newspaper has, in this space, repeatedly told online readers what they should not do while posting comments to stories and other readers' feedback.
They've been told to not engage in personal attacks, for instance, and to not try to guess the identities of online posters, and to not use profanity.
But we haven't devoted much space to tell online commenters what they can - or should - do.
A reader sent us the guidelines her hometown newspaper, The Aberdeen American News, has for reader-submitted online comments. They're straightforward, constructive and well worth listing here:
Keep it clean. Avoid language that is obscene, vulgar, lewd or sexually oriented. If you can't control yourself, don't post it. Don't threaten to hurt or kill anyone.
Be truthful. Keep in mind that libel and defamation laws may apply to the comments you make.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any other sort of -ism that degrades another person. PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK, and forgive people their spelling errors. Let us know if it's getting out of hand. Please use the "report this comment" button on offensive comments.
Share what you know, ask about what you don't. Give us your eyewitness accounts, background, observations and history. What more do you want to know about the story?
Stay focused, and ask questions. Keep on the story's topic.
Lastly, the American News noted that it reserves the right to remove any or all comments at its discretion and without notice. That's a right the Echo Press also holds with its comment section.
The online comment section, from time to time, has been a headache, especially when an isolated few posters start to feel the need to support their views by bashing others.
But all in all, the section with its reader-monitored system is worth having. It's a unique way to talk about important (and at times, frivolous) issues that shape people's lives in Douglas County. It can even be fun.
It has generated story ideas, led to corrections or clarifications and sparked informal dialogue that, when constructive, has led to a better understanding of hot topics in the news.
Remember, the point of the online section is to express your thoughts and ideas about a story - not to engage in feuds with other online posters.
You can stay out of that whole fray by addressing the comments to the newspaper, not another poster. The newspaper is interested in what you think of a story, how it was covered and fresh angles that could be explored.
So, we invite more readers to take part in the online debate. Granted, because comments can be posted with a made-up computer moniker, not a full name, they don't have the kind of credibility as a letter to the editor. But the comments can still be useful, helpful and meaningful. Just remember to keep it clean, truthful and nice. -- Alexandria Echo Press