Letter from editor: Practice common courtesy on the blogosphere

Posted: Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Juneau Empire has been monitoring its blogs more closely in recent weeks after repeated violations of our online policies resulted in several users being banned from posting comments to stories.

Our online blogs are intended to generate intelligent, thought-provoking discussion among readers. When used for this purpose, the blogs offer a useful public service.

But far too often individuals have used the blogs to attack fellow bloggers, sources quoted in stories and members of the Empire staff. These violations have ranged from crude and distasteful to downright libelous, racist and malicious. When this happens, online commenting quickly becomes a bane to the community rather than a boon, as it was intended.

Our policy for online commenting has been revised and posted on the Empire's Web site, but the easiest way to avoid policy infractions is to practice common courtesy and to keep comments directed toward the issue at hand, not other individuals. To put it simply: If you wouldn't say it in person to a group of strangers, don't write it on the blogs.

One of the most frequent complaints we hear is the ability for bloggers to post anonymously. Unfortunately, we don't currently have the resources or technology to change that. With that said, I encourage all of you who wish for your voice to be heard to submit a letter to the editor or a My Turn column, which Empire staff can and will verify prior to publishing (please include a phone number).

Bloggers have the ability on the Empire's Web site to monitor and report hecklers, and we appreciate those who do. We also appreciate members of the public who report violations directly to our newsroom and Web team, as it enables us to act quicker in removing improper content.

The Juneau Empire endoreses freedom of speach, as all media outlets should, but in no way can we support an online feature used to hurt and discredit the community and citizens which we serve.

I emplore all readers to follow our online policies and to use commenting for the purpose it was intended: a collaborative forum of ideas and discussion. The only other option would be for the Empire to disable blogging entirely. You, our readers, will be the ones to decide what happens next.

Charles Westmoreland

Managing editor, Juneau Empire



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