West Side Rag is changing our commenting policy, at least for the time being, as we’ve gotten complaints about the tone of the comments, and it’s not often clear how they’re contributing to the discussion or the community.
In the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions, other sites have also noted how the Internet has become more toxic. As one writer at The Stranger in Seattle put it last week: “I have never seen things so toxic in my life. You can’t visit any sort of a website without getting into a fight. And internet fights, honestly, just don’t do it for me anymore. You’re not trying to change minds. You’re brawling in public to score imaginary points in a game that doesn’t exist.”
So here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to allow comments only on a limited number of stories, particularly ones where we’re looking for feedback from the community about an important issue or memories of the neighborhood’s past — this worked quite well on stories about street changes in Central Park and photos of the 1920’s. And when we do allow comments, we’re only going to allow on-topic comments, absent the sniping or off-topic nonsense. Not every story on this site is an entree to re-litigate the social changes of the 60’s or have an angry fight about gentrification.
The people who work on this site (usually numbering one or two on a good day) have other jobs and responsibilities and simply don’t have time to moderate the endless back-and-forth, complaints, emails, etc. We’ve deleted comments from people on the left and right, and been accused of being stealth conservatives and stealth liberals.
There are, of course, several other ways to get involved in the site. You can help the site by sending tips and photos to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also offer to write stories, because we need more writers.
Or, instead of writing angry anonymous comments at other anonymous people, you can volunteer at several of the local organizations that need help, try a new hobby, or annoy your friends and family instead of annoying the people on this site — it’s the holidays, for goodness sake!
Clip art by bitterjug.