Two stories attract different forms of online response
by Joe Copeland
Two very different stories rocketed off in two different fashions this week.
A deeply researched story on debt, courts, and bill collectors by Harris Meyer almost instantly went to the top of Crosscut’s list of the most-read stories of the past 10 days. Meyer described how, despite state constitutional provisions prohibiting jailing anyone for unpaid debts, people are still being incarcerated in civil debt cases. As he wrote, it’s typically for contempt of court after a failure to appear at a hearing.
For all its readers (the most for any story this year, I believe), “Are local courts overstepping by helping bill collectors apply the screws?” drew only two online comments during the work week.
On Friday (Oct. 8), Hubert Locke wrote an essay, “Beep beep: a car-user’s manifesto,” that, while quite well read, simply flew to the top of our list of the most-commented stories. Locke, a distinguished professor, dove into a hot-button issue with his thoughts on bicycles, city politics, and his own occasional need for a car.
As with most Crosscut discussions, there was a good amount of intelligent, civil debate. But, in the initial phases of the back and forth, I found some of the early comments offensively personal.
As one commenter put it, “On a side note there is a bit too much hate coming from both sides of this debate. I am of the opinion that Crosscut works best when comments provide constructive criticism, and civil commentary and debate on both the specifics as well as the general topics of the article. This ought to be place where ideas are shared between peers, not enemies.” Personally, as someone who tends toward the bike-rider side of most of our arguments, I was really cringing at the insulting tones of the responses from a few of the pro-bicycle writers. But the poster was right; the nastiness was flowing both ways.
We generally feel that participants in the comment sections of articles do a nice job of keeping themselves focused on the issue rather than personal insults. But we always welcome comments on whether or not that’s working, whether the ground rules and their enforcement seem to be reasonable, and whether some changes might be in order. Perhaps we need to be more explicit in the rules about maintaining civility and avoiding personal insults.
Here a few of the other stories that would be worth catching up with this weekend:
“Rise up, couch potatoes! Apple, Google, and others launch a TV war,” by Skip Ferderber.
“Might the impatient political center be ready to rise again?” by David Brewster.
“Seeing books as commodities, with hand scanners as evidence,” by Don Fels.
“Metro drivers’ wages have barely kept up with inflation,” by Paul J. Bachtel.
“On a summer road trip: Call of the not-so-wild,” by Knute Berger.
“Memories of toxic rain in Ruston, and the smelter that shaped the city,” by Daniel Jack Chasan.
I hope you will have a good weekend.