The news business has always been about communication — sharing information with our readers and creating a dialogue. Then, along came the Internet and social media, and conversation really started flowing.
Unfortunately, some of the conversation in online comments was uncivil. Protected by anonymity, some readers feel free to insult each other, indulge in name-calling, and make comments that would never be acceptable in the print newspaper, where the standard for letters to the editor has always been full identification.
So, starting Sunday, The Olympian is changing to Facebook commenting online. This means, to participate, readers will use their Facebook accounts, names and profile picture.
On Facebook, most people use their true identities and many of our readers already have existing accounts. Readers who don’t have an account can create one for free.
We know the move to Facebook commenting is not a cure-all nor without controversy. Some users will find a way to create accounts using fake identities. We’ll watch for that as we continue to monitor for posts that deviate from the rules of civil engagement.
With these changes, we are likely to have fewer comments on our stories. We hope the trade-off will be a sharp improvement in the quality of the exchanges, a result reported by other news organizations that have made the switch.
The cloak of anonymity stifles respectful debate. We believe this change will encourage conversation — but in a safer, civilized space. We answer several questions at theolympian.com/faq.
Also, new in the digital world, The Olympian iPad app!
The app is available at the Apple Store (search The Olympian) and is free for subscribers.
It presents up-to-the-minute news in a highly visual format with tiles for each photo and story. Separate sections for local news, sports, opinion and entertainment make it easy to scroll to the information that most interests you.
This becomes our third way iPad readers can consume Olympian news. They can read from the traditional website, turn the virtual pages through a replica edition of the day’s paper or select this new format. We intend to keep improving these offerings and make them available for Android users soon.
We cannot ignore readers using phones and tablets. More than a third of our online readership is now coming from those mobile devices, and the numbers are up 33 percent from last year.
Jerre Redecker is senior editor of The Olympian.