Engagement is great, but be nice about it

The Producer isn’t about to turn off our comments section like the CBC recently did, but man, it would be great if people would be a bit nicer to each other.
 | Screencap via Facebook/The Western Producer

The Western Producer’s letters to the editor section was once a bustling place.

Pages 12 and 13 were always blocked off for letters with lots left over every week. Sometimes the surplus became so large that we had to find a couple of extra pages in the middle of the paper to ease the overflow.

But then something changed.

The number of letters for what we call the Open Forum section began to shrink, and soon we weren’t receiving enough to fill pages 12 and 13. It wasn’t long before the section’s regular home was reduced to only page 12.

Eventually it became difficult to fill all of page 12 with letters, and in some issues we ran a photo or news story as well.

And then the unthinkable happened — the first week that we didn’t receive any letters at all and had to take the Open Forum heading off the page and run only news content.

It was a sad day, and it began to happen regularly.

The situation hasn’t improved — we didn’t have an Open Forum section in the July 15 issue and there isn’t one in this issue either — but that doesn’t mean readers have stopped engaging with the paper.

The comment section with our online stories, particularly on Facebook, is now the happening place to be. However, I’m not convinced this is a positive development.

News outlets’ comment sections can be a grubby corner of the internet. There’s been lots of talk recently about how civility has been deteriorating in our society, and you only have to read the comments following an online news story to see the truth in that.

I actually make a point of not reading comments attached to online news stories because much of it is so juvenile.

A guy I once knew who worked overseas said that in some parts of the world, the shortest period of time was the time between when a traffic light turned green and the first car horn honked.

I think that is now rivalled by the amount of time it takes between the posting of the first online comment and the whole thing turning into a steaming mess.

The Producer isn’t about to turn off our comments section like the CBC recently did, but man, it would be great if people would be a bit nicer to each other.

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