Let's Get Civil
Manners really matter online.
I should open by disclosing the fact that, in general, I like the comment feature of online news. However, I am increasingly upset by the tone and anonymity of online comments. Some adults are modeling negative behavior and utter disrespect for our school officials, elected officials and others.
The past week's example of a hoodie day Swampscott High School, aimed at generating discussion about a current event, brought out a string of comments that our high school aged children were likely to read. In fact in today's 24/7 online news cycle, things can be read over and over again.
That's why everyone commenting should ask themselves a few questions before posting their comments online.
First, everyone should stand by their comments with their real names. If it is important and you are proud to say it, sign it.
Second, don't say anything online about anyone that you would not say directly to them. So, if you are not someone who would go up to a school principal and say "go back to where you came from" then you should not say it online. The only difference is that when you say it online, it lives in cyberspace forever. If you say it in person, it's over fairy quickly.
And third, please take your responsibility as a role model seriously. If you believe that young people should be respectful to their authority figures and the adults in their lives, please behave that way yourself. Legitimate criticism is acceptable, but should be civil. Again, pretend as if the person is right there.
Fourth, take a few minutes to make sure you are informed before making a comment. Read the article, read about the issue and try to make a comment that politely and civilly asks questions and raises issues. Try not to completely twist the issue into something that is not and never was.
For those of us in the news business, the ability to comment can be a wonderful thing. It involves the reader in the news. It generates thoughtful debate and adds valuable insight and information. Comments can help direct future coverage.
Those who write and assign the news learn the issues that invoke passion in our readers. It's not always pretty, but we have thick skin if we are in this business. We really do care about our readers.
We are seeing a lack of civility in many arenas. Last year, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives essentially called the president a liar in the State of the Union address.
We see frequent lapses of civility and manners in our presidential campaigns. We've seen crowds get rowdy and yell out ugly words and names.
But, it does not have to be this way. We can and should do better.