Please allow for some navel gazing today. We hope it provides some insight.
Some newspapers in this country have decided to stop allowing people the opportunity to provide online comments to their stories. The CBC did the same last year.
Our online comments system at Black Press is set up differently than some others — you have to have a Facebook account to comment. Any changes to our current system would likely come from a wider, company-wide discussion.
We understand and agree with the sentiment expressed by organizations that have suspended comment on their websites. Some people don’t seem to understand their hurtful or racist or hateful commentary is just as bad — and actionable — online as it is in print. For some reason, trolls believe there are different rules about what they can say online as opposed to print or, goodness forbid, face to face.
Using Facebook to allow comments on our stories is far from bulletproof. It’s more difficult to hide your identity on Facebook, but still possible. Even if it’s clear who is writing a hurtful, hateful comment, that comment is still there for a time until we can catch it and delete.
We monitor the comments on our stories, being sure to check multiple times in a day what’s being written. It’s not reasonable to expect us to have someone monitoring the comments 24/7/365.
We have to delete comments on occasion. Most of the time, we delete them because of foul language or name-calling.
We still provide a unique forum for the approximately 50,000 people who live in our coverage area in our letters to the editor pages (we also post our letters online). We published approximately 600 letters to the editor in 2015 and we allow for more length (300-word max) than most newspapers. We also allow more leeway than most — we won’t toss your letter because we believe your idea is a little ‘out there.’ Go ahead, write us a letter suggesting a subway system for Parksville Qualicum Beach.
We believe our letters pages are valuable, both to our business and the community. We admire those who take the time and give the effort needed to write about the issues of the day in our communities.
Trolls need not apply.
— Editorial by John Harding