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Take time to think before you comment

By: Jenifer Gee, Journal editor
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We don’t always say what’s on our mind. Sometimes we might be shy, other times we’re not sure of our knowledge, and sometimes we recognize that our thought may not be very kind. In the end, we’re thinking about the consequences of our actions. The Journal’s online comment system has in many ways served as a forum for readers to say whatever is on their mind without fear of repercussion. On Monday that ends. We’re unveiling a new comment system in which readers will need a Facebook account to post their opinion, thought, etc. on any of our stories. In today’s world, many users have a Facebook page that uses their first and last name and a photo. Our hope is that by readers using their Facebook profile as their online log-in to comment, users will hold themselves more accountable for what they post. It’s a move other newspapers are making as well, including The Los Angeles Times. Now, we did not base our decision to move to this new comment system because other newspapers have. I cite them as examples that show other publications face similar challenges with operating anonymous public forums and the inappropriate comments that accompany them. On the Journal’s website, I’ve read a range of comments from the good, the bad and the really ugly. On a feature of a community member doing good, you in turn see the good of the community. Commenters offer their support or congratulations to the person in the article. However, on more hard news, and especially crime stories, the online discussion quickly digresses into political tirades, personal attacks on the person in the story and even attacks on someone who has died. It seems we forget that the people in stories are people and many have families who are innocent bystanders who absorb the hateful words written about one of their own. Oftentimes I read a harsh, hurtful comment and I wonder if the person who posted it would turn around and say the same thing face-to-face with their target. I hope our new, more transparent comment system will invite more to join the online forum at the Journal. Especially knowing now that our readers will have to be cognizant of the consequences of what they post. I want it to still be a forum where readers feel comfortable challenging each other, the community and this newspaper. Not every comment has to be or will be positive. Criticism can be valid and at times necessary. Just now it can be done in a more respectful manner. In addition, you don’t have to have a Facebook page to still have your voice heard. Readers can still send in letters to the editor via mail or email and we’ll publish them on this page and online. Ultimately, this new system is meant to create a more civilized and inviting online town hall for the community. I hope you join us. ---------- How to create a Facebook profile 1. Go to www.facebook.com 2. Fill in information under “Sign Up” on the right hand side of the homepage 3. The site will ask for basic information to create your account 4. Once your profile is set up, and you are logged into Facebook, you can go to the Journal’s website to post a comment to a story 5. If you are not logged into Facebook and want to post a comment, there will be a log- in feature on the right hand side of the comment box ----------