By Keven R. Graves
The Whidbey News-Times has a lively website that invites reader comments.
As a community newspaper, we welcome a variety of opinions — an exchange of differing ideas. And we have many readers who readily and frequently share their thoughts.
That’s the First Amendment at it’s best.
Where we run into problems is when people cannot play by the rules. And, yes, there are rules, just like on any playground.
We expect people to behave.
Unfortunately, the somewhat inhuman nature of the Internet compels people to call one another names and insult and berate one another in a way that an otherwise civil adult would never do face to face.
Some people like to antagonize others — to poke the bear. By belittling the opinions of others, they like to believe they maintain the upper hand because they can be the rudest. The objective seems to be to drowned out the voices of others.
While obnoxious, it is tolerable — to a point.
The fact is, online comment pages require supervision, a person who welcomes the newcomers, enforces the rules and breaks up the occasional brawl.
That’s where I and other members of the newspaper’s staff will be stepping in when necessary.
When the online comments are offensive, threatening or venture into unnecessary personal attacks, we will issue a warning, either on the online board or privately. An offending remark will most likely be removed from public view.
In extreme circumstances, when all else fails and a dialogue has gotten out of control, a thread may be shut down completely.
The same is true when profanity is involved, or a person defiantly pushes the limits by continually posting links after being asked to stop.
If a warning doesn’t work, a person may be blocked from the News-Times’ website.
Commenting on the website is not a right, it is a privilege. Everyone should feel free to express their opinions without fear of being verbally attacked or insulted, and certainly not threatened.
Log on the www.whidbeynewstimes.com and join in the discussion.
Just remember to play by the rules.