Lisa Stuckey, Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member, recently asked why we have published unsigned blog comments in The Chapel Hill News. We require names on letters to the editor, she noted. Why the double standard?Allowing screen names on blogs is an industrywide practice. Many readers would not comment on them otherwise. We publish excerpts from the OrangeChat blog in the paper because they are newsworthy and/or interesting. But Stuckey and others who've made the same argument have a point. So we are changing our policy. Readers may continue to comment on our blog anonymously or with a screen name. But we will require names for those comments to appear in print.We hope this policy elevates the conversation and encourages people who want to reach the broadest audience to give their names. We know some of you will disagree. Some already have. We asked what you thought about this issue a few weeks ago on our blog (blogs.newsobserver.com/orangechat/home). Here are some of the comments we received, including two from people using screen names we will no longer accept for publication in the newspaper.
Comment from Jay Hurst
At least the editor should have access to the poster's true first and last name, lest (as we see elsewhere on the web) we find cowardly children hiding behind their anonymities to say things they should take responsibility for -- and for which the libelous and slanderous should be held to account. ... If a fool can't post a ridiculous lie because s/he can't have anonymity, then we have lost nothing, and gained personal responsibility.
Comment from Will Raymond
Since you select the content that migrates from OrangeChat to the print edition, I say no, don't require full names. Anonymity is not about cowardice, as anyone that has read Publius' Federalist Papers might recall. Yes, you court potential trouble but the reward -- greater access to the community's unfettered opinions -- is well worth the risk. I hope the Chapel Hill News maintains their precedent of inviting the greatest possible dialog on the issues by continuing to allow anonymous content.
Comment from elvisboy77
What if an employee of the school system has a valid comment contrary to the school administration's opinion on a subject? Shouldn't that person be able to voice their opinion without fear of retribution?That is probably why you got the complaint from the board member in the first place, the school system gets criticized on this site and they probably don't like it.
Comment from Fred Black
We have heard all of these arguments for anonymity before. Why do printed letters require full information and blogs not require the same is a valid question? If blog comments are going to be printed just like letters, then the standard ought to be the same.
Comment from Mark Marcoplos
Anonymous posts are inherently not to be taken as seriously as signed posts.
Comment from chccsparent at 11:47 a.m. Monday
Yep, I'm scared of what the CHCCS school will do to my kids if they knew my opinions as posted here on the blog. Witness Ms. Stuckey's reactions to people's opinions posted herein. ... As long as the People-in-Power's reaction is to turn off the voice rather than acknowledging what the voice is saying ... all the philosphizing in the world doesn't matter. My kids only have one chance. I will not jeopardize their education.