The Beacon has included a comment section at the end of stories since we launched in 2007, with the goal of providing a forum for public discussion, hopefully robust, illuminating or at least constructive. As the majority of newspapers around the state eliminated their comment sections, we remained one of the last holdouts.
That is, until now.
There are several reasons for our decision. For one, the comments are often dominated by a small handful of commenters and too frequently border on hostile, if not cross the line. In any case, the result is a feedback loop between limited voices with few others joining the conversation, defeating the purpose of a “public” forum.
For another, the comment section often forces a slippery slope of decisions and maintenance, with readers asking that questionable content — unverifiable accusations, name-calling, etc. — be removed, requiring us to find the right balance between not stifling speech and not hosting an antagonistic discussion space on our website. At times, we’ve had to remove outright bigotry from the site.
Lastly, the majority of public discussion has shifted to our Facebook page anyway, so it makes sense to direct the whole conversation there, where power in numbers innately fosters a more diverse, balanced forum. It’s a natural transition, and in fact the conversation on our Facebook page is more in line with our original vision for cultivating a public space to discuss the news and issues of the day.
We will still monitor the Facebook comments, but now they will all be in one place, with more voices contributing and, if necessary, policing each other.
As always, thank you for reading.