Editorial: CDN and “Comments”

After our first year of providing news about Clarke County one thing has become very clear; Clarke Daily News readers have a lot to say. CDN’s “comment” feature, a social media tool that allows readers to attach their opinions to any story, has generated significant interest.

Our primary goal in allowing readers to comment on our stories is to create dialogue around issues that are important to our community. Every comment posted to the CDN website is “moderated.” Comment moderation means that a CDN staff member reads each comment and makes a decision to post the comment as submitted, edit the comment to remove objectionable material or reject the comment.

As a rule, very few comments submitted to CDN are rejected. We have been particularly pleased by the many cases where comments lift the discussion topics to new levels (teen drinking, the CCHS greenhouse, and the recent Shenandoah River Lane house fire come to mind as examples.) CDN’s comments prove again and again that Clarke County’s best news analysis comes from its citizens.

CDN has also generated a lot of controversy with its policy, both “for” and “against” allowing comments that don’t always conform to the majority’s viewpoint. That’s why we also make every attempt to [REDACT] foul language so that comments from “colorful” authors can still be read by the general public. We also are committed to defending the anonymity of our readers under all circumstances. For a variety of reasons, many people simply don’t want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. Instead of using their true names to communicate, some people choose to speak under assumed names.

CDN believes that anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

We also recognize that not everyone has an interest in defending, or even reading, the free speech of other citizens who attach their thoughts to CDN stories. If you are such a reader who finds CDN’s reader comments unappealing, we have implemented a solution that may help.

CDN comments at the end of each story are now “hidden” by default. Readers who wish to view comments may now simply click the button at the end of each story:

CDN readers now have the option of not seeing comments attached to stories

The Clarke Daily News staff expresses it sincere thanks to the people of Clarke County for the outpouring of support for our community that has been voiced through our online news “experiment.” It’s safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting into when we first began publishing CDN. But the experience has been nothing short of “awesome.”   No one knows what the coming year may hold but we look forward to sharing it with you.

Comments

  1. Laura Bohall says:

    A million thanks for being such a significant part of our community.

  2. Tammy Lanham says:

    When our small town newspaper stopped the presses I know many of us were worried about how we would be able to share local news in a timely manner. I was personally relieved last year when the CDN started up and regularly reported on progress of the new high school. After attending board meetings for months and trying to help keep neighbors informed and involved I was so grateful that CDN’s staff could do all of these things for us. From feature articles on local happenings to reports on political happenings that affect us all, the CDN has become an important part of our Clarke Community.

    After much thought on the matter, I have come to the realization that the CDN “comments” are actually as important as the news reports themselves. At times the rants do go on, and such strong viewpoints can be disturbing for readers (certainly when comments go so far off-topicand get so personal!) but at the same time we are learning a lot from each other. New residents are learning about our volunteer fire departments and community events, retired residents are learning about the successes of school children, busy parents are able to keep up with educational policies, and all of us are finding out more about which issues are important to us as a community.

    Ed Leonard and staff do care about our community- and we now have a chance to communicate and actually have a say in what goes on here! All news does not have to be bad news either– the people section, events, weather, and feature stories continue to reflect many positive things about Clarke County, and I love how there is always opportunity to post small-town happenings (lemonade stands, lost pet news and town parades are important too!) And what a great solution to just let readers click on comments as they wish to read them. Although not all comments are negative, I completely understand the time and patience it takes to process so many heart-felt commentaries on issues that obviously matter a lot to our citizens.

    As we learn more about each other- and our elected officials learn more about the people they serve- communication and even controversy may actually bring better understanding (and maybe also positive change). It’s all about Perspective: “a way of regarding situations or topics… or a mental view or the state of one’s ideas”

    Thank you CDN for reporting on local news as well as for the opportunity to share our individual perspectives on so many issues!

    Most sincerely,
    Tammy L.

    A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.
    Allen Klein

  3. Just an observer says:

    My suggestion would be that links to pictures (Facebook, etc.) should not be included.

  4. I would suggest maybe an option to always allow the comments to be displayed if the reader so chooses. It’s kind of annoying to click on a new comment only to have to click again to view the comments and click the new one again to see it.

  5. I agree…It’s not very user friendly! Everybody reads the comments! There are too many nosy people in Berryville not to…..

  6. Sarge Willis says:

    Well said Tammy, I agree completely, thanks CDN.