Sunday, January 23, 2011

Really, do you have to say that?

I don't know why I bother reading comments on news articles. Many don't move the conversation forward, they just drag it into the gutter.

On Friday, I was reading an article about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords leaving the hospital for a rehabilitation facility. There were four comments when I looked at the article on The Hill.

The first comment was a well wisher.

The second comment wanted to criticize Giffords' political party. I don't understand what the commenter was talking about that the party had defended Giffords' shooter?!

I believe the comment about the party had "accused innocent others" was a reference to Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, etc. I'm not a fan of Palin or her rhetoric. I understand she's not responsible for the shooting. Palin's map with cross hairs became part of the story, because the victim Congresswoman Giffords complained about Palin's map way before she was shot. No conspiracy, just plain old fashioned reporting.

A third commenter called the second one a moron. "God save you (sic) damn soul."

I grew up writing for newspapers. Years ago, the only way you could share your comment was to write a letter to the editor, sign your name to it and most likely receive a verification call. I've had my share of conversations with people who wanted to submit an anonymous letter.

My favorite line: "If you have the balls to say it, but your name on it." I often convinced the writer to use their name. When I wasn't successful, I tossed the anonymous letter in the trash.

Today, that's not so much the case. The Internet has made the conversation more immediate and accessible with the comment section at the end of stories. There are still ways to moderate the conversation, but it's pretty much the wild west — whatever is said is posted.

There seems to always be a Negative Nelly ready to jump online and post a comment. A new industry is coming to town, but one commenter says that's not good enough. The wages should be higher. The local high school offers a new after school program to help teen moms stay in school. No, no that just encourages teen pregnancy, because it makes it too easy.

I think there should be a "Count to 10 rule" for online comments. This way people might think twice (or at least read their comments) before they hit the post button. A glass-half full girl can dream, can't she?

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