Town Square

Post a New Topic

A New Year's resolution

Original post made by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Jan 5, 2010

THIS MONDAY was the first Monday of the New Year, and I was just back from vacation, and the air was fresh and full of promise. Best of all, my inbox wasn't too full.

Still there were a couple nice messages in there, and one in particular caught my eye. A faithful reader wrote to ask -- plead, really -- regarding Town Square.

Specifically, she wondered: What's it good for? Given all the bigots, crazies and negative nellies on there, it seems to be more of a failed experiment than a useful tool. Or so she thought.

I think her message speaks to the concerns of many readers. Below is her e-mail, followed by my response:

Don --
I would like to wish you and the ==I Voice== well in the coming year.
I also want to tell you that I'm seriously considering making a New Year's Resolution not to read Town Square. It's a waste of time and resources.
I would really like to know what you're trying to do with this feature. At this point, it offers us no useful info and often no display of even common courtesy by the contributors. The same proudly ignorant and often bigoted people seem to be spending all their time just mouthing off. Yes, I did see your [Web Link column responding to one of them], several weeks ago, but he's back again with more of the same.
Possibilities for amelioration: The format of the feature openly encourages this unproductive behavior by not requiring people to provide their real names. If they had to do that, perhaps they might think a bit before hitting send. Do you think it's worth a try? How about limiting the number of times the same person can comment on one story?
Not requiring online commentary to conform to any of the standards that printed letters to the editor must is disrespectful to your readers, as well as to the medium.

I replied:

Happy New Year. I'm just back from a weeklong vacation and have been blissfully ignorant of the doings on Town Square.
A funny thing about the Internet: Now you know what everyone is thinking. Turns out, maybe you didn't want to know.
As for your suggestion: Unfortunately, requiring that people put their real names before posting is not logistically possible. Short of making them [Web Link come down to the office with a photo ID], how would you do it? The closest we come to accountability is the login requirement, which I do use for the [Web Link more sensitive stories]. It's possible for posters to keep their anonymity while logging in, but then at least we have an e-mail address to reach them with, and it's easier to ban irresponsible commenters by revoking their login.
Town Square has had some good aspects. It helps us to know what stories people are interested in. It has led to actual scoops before (the postings can act as a sort of rumor mill). It's been a good emotional outlet in some cases, as when [Web Link Rosemary Stasek died]. And from a business standpoint, it increases our page views dramatically, which makes our online ads much more viable -- and that's the future of newspapers, so we're not about to give that up.
Bottom line: It's here to stay. Though frankly I don't blame anyone for skipping it. Many faithful readers get the full ==I Voice== experience while never bothering with Town Square -- remaining just as blissfully ignorant of it as I was over the past week.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Cho's, beloved dim sum spot, to reopen in Los Altos
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 5,692 views

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 11 comments | 2,195 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,721 views

Death with Dignity
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 943 views

With a Perspective....
By Ms. Jenson | 0 comments | 362 views