When I started My Edmonds News last fall, my goal was to go beyond providing news and give people a place to talk about the events of the day. I believe that being able to discuss ideas online is mostly a good thing: It allows community members to air opinions, exchange ideas and come up with the solutions. But sometimes, people type things that they would likely never say in face-to-face conversation. It happens regularly on the websites of major newspapers across town and around the nation. And it happens here from time to time, and I’ve deleted many comments that have gone over the top.
But the last week has been a real eye-opener for me, and it has forced me to rethink my approach to how I treat comments on this site.
It started when I published a story, taken from a City Council meeting report in early July, on the alleged destruction of public property that involved damaging a tree, and the (also alleged) involvement of a former bank executive. The story itself is still unfolding. Until the police investigation is complete, authorities are not releasing additional information. The executive himself has made a full statement on this site disputing many of the details released at the council meeting. The homeowner on whose property the alleged tree cutters trespassed to remove the tree stands by her story, too.
The tone of the commentary that followed the posting of that story took me by surprise. I am not talking about those who lamented the loss of the tree or expressed concern about the legality of the process, the actions of the City or those who removed the tree. I am also not talking about those who criticized me directly, as it comes with the territory, and I accept that. I am referring to those who made disparaging comments about the executive himself — in particular, personal attacks from people who don’t even know the man.
It’s clear that our society has become much too tolerant of attack mentality — both nationally and locally. You see it and hear it on talk radio, on Fox News and MSNBC, and yes, online. But this is our community, and it’s essentially a small town where people know each other. So it’s not going to happen here.
Does that mean you can’t comment any more? Of course not. But I am asking you to be civil. If you disagree with someone, fine. If you want to point out why you think they are wrong, that’s great. But be thoughtful about it. Remember that there is a person on a computer screen somewhere who is reading what you say about them.
I reserve the right to delete any comment that goes over the top. I also will delete comments submitted by people who don’t identify themselves by first and last name when they register. And although I don’t require that your on-screen user name has a first and last name, it would be very nice to our community here if it did. For the story in question, I have locked further commentary as I believe that all sides have now been represented, and I have removed the comments that I believe violated the policy mentioned above.
Finally, I want to thank all of you who have contributed in the continued growth and development of our online community. I appreciate your support, and I look forward to your participation for many years to come.
Teresa Wippel, Publisher
My Edmonds News