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:
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.