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Free forum should not be cheap forum

We love to hear from readers.

We take seriously our role in providing a free open forum for our readers.

We encourage diversity of thought and opinion.

We strongly believe we are all made stronger by the perspectives of others.

Intellectually, we all benefit the most when we carefully consider the opinions of people with whom we disagree on any issue.

With all that stated, what we are going to say now will, without doubt, draw fire from some people with whom we disagree.

While public commenting, open debate, letters to the editor, political columns are all important tools to incubate a dialogue that benefits everyone, blind commenting incubates little more than a cesspool of words and brings out the most vile nature in those who hide behind the anonymity of a screen name.

We have commented on this previously.

There are those in the community who adamantly disagree.

That is fine.

We respect your right to feel what you feel, think what you think and interpret history in whatever light you choose.

We believe that anything worth saying is worth putting your name to.

Those who have the courage of their convictions will have no problem taking ownership of their own words.

While it may be true that historically anonymous speech figured prominently in the formation of our nation, we are at a different place, in a different time with different standards.

Thomas Paine was tough, straightforward and bold in his speech, even before his real name was disclosed.

What he was not was vile, personal and libelous.

Forums, blogs and blind commenting sections on websites have brought out the worst in society.

Traditionally, newspapers have published letters to the editor on editorial pages and always required the writers to provide their actual names and a city of residence along with verifying information.

Somehow or another when newspapers began publishing online, those journalistic standards and editorial polices seem to have fallen by the wayside.

We want readers to comment on news articles and commentaries, whether they do it online or in print.

We embrace public dialogue and have no desire whatsoever to squelch open debate on any issue whatsoever.

We embrace dissenting points of view.

We do not embrace cheap shots being taken by people who do not have the courage to give their names.

In the next few weeks, the newspaper will be making some changes in the way comments on articles are made on our website.

As the technical aspects of the change are being made, we are being transparent about our intentions and the direction we are heading in as we work every day to provide a vibrant, strong, informative and journalistically sound newspaper to our community.

As we unveil the new means of commenting, we will explain the process in detail to make it as easy as possible for readers to continue to provide comments and speak their mind in this free, open, public forum.

— Editor Jim Zachary