Recently, Ohio.com decided to upgrade it's online edition of the daily Akron Beacon Journal website. As you know, the Beacon has been obsessed with the issue of "civility" for some time. After seven years of writing my blog here, I still do not understand what the obsession is all about.....check that.....I do know what the Beacon says it's about.....I just disagree with their conclusions.
What I do know is that many readers of the Beacon's online site ENJOYED participating in the commenting sections. On a daily basis the comments in response to the 'letters to the editor' sections alone would number in the hundreds. It was a virtual coffee-klatch community.
Since the Beacon changed their online commenting to Facebook-only, I've counted two, count em, 2 comments on ALL 'letters to the editor' sections combined. Facebook. although of course not exclusively, is a younger person's virtual venue....and that's all fine and all, except that many, many Ohio.com readers/commenters....are not "on" Facebook. Additionally, I still can't understand why the Beacon would casually throw away so much advertiser-supported traffic....but it appears as if eliminating anonymity-in-commenting is the objective.
It seems ironic that while the national "press" has come to rely almost exclusively on sources who insist on anonymity to write their "news" stories.....readers of those stories, at least at Ohio.com, cannot choose to remain anonymous should they wish to comment on one of those stories. Doesn't that seem misguided?
In fact, if professional media writers refused to grant anonymity to sources, the largest papers in the country wouldn't have anything to write.
Further, I read at a lot of online sites.....a lot of online sites...every...single...day. Some have commenting sections, some do not. Some, like National Review Online and redstate, block permanently any commenter who differs with the political ideology of the site and dares to express that difference. Other sites welcome all comments and adapt to the rough and tumble, back and forth.......just like people do in all other aspects of human interaction.
In comparison to other sites, Ohio.com's commenting sections using the Disqus format were mild-mannered and polite. Sure, there was some name calling.....but so what? Ours is a nation that detains people in offshore gulags indefinitely, ours is a nation which still favors the use of torture when "necessary"......and yet we can't deal with online anonymity because it encourages "incivility?"
I'm sure that those leading the charge for online civility mean well, have good intentions. I also know that print media are facing tremendous economic pressures in a digital age.
But I'm on the side of those who still desire to leave comments anonymously......just like national "reporters" are on the side of those they quote from.....anonymously. So I would say to those at the Beacon and Ohio.com who decide such matters.....like Moses of old....."set my anonymous people free."
Why should the rules for professional media reporters be different from those pertaining to 'citizen journalists?' They shouldn't.
When highly paid "professionals" give up their practice of quoting anonymous sources in their "news" stories......then, and only then.....should citizens who are not journalists be required to identify themselves along with their comments.
Otherwise, you know, double standards and all that.
* I'm patiently waiting for Ohio.com to reverse their new civility, anti-anonymity, decision. I'm not particularly hopeful. Ohio.com is turning away a lot of "clicks".....and the bottom line is the bottom line....so maybe. But in case they stand pat.....I have another domain name site where Mass Destruction commenters can continue to freely practice what every professional writer builds their credentials upon.....anonymity.
Stay tuned for further information.
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