Last Friday’s (July 27) opening ceremony of the London 2010 Summer Olympics was, among other things, a celebration of innovation and technology, past and current. On the “current” side of things, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, was one of the many people who made brief appearances — this during a segment of the ceremony that included hordes of young people (these Games’ motto is, after all, “Inspire a Generation”) texting and tweeting each other in a hyperactive social networking celebration.
It’s all good, of course. Berners-Lee’s invention, along with the proliferation of Internet browsing devices large and small, has liberated people in ways both large and small. Just look the “Arab Spring” that has occurred over the past two years — here’s hoping the latest chapter is resolved in favour of democracy advocates before much more blood is shed in Syria.
While it’s anybody’s guess where the cyber-revolution will take us next, there’s still a place for traditional media — journalists with their feet on the ground, doing what they’ve always done. News organizations — and that’s what The Chief is, not just a newspaper — need to stay current and relevant in this ever-changing world. Encouraging online comments on our stories, columns and other content is one of the ways we’re trying to do that.
Comments, of course, can be a bit of a minefield for those called on to moderate the discussion. We encourage a free exchange of ideas, but as our online comments policy states, “We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to edit comments for length, style, legality and taste.”
When does a snide remark become a “personal attack”? What sort of language should be deemed “offensive”? What constitutes “unsubstantiated allegations”? It’s a fine line to walk, to be sure, and one that this writer takes seriously.
In some instances, it’s not difficult to tell when someone has crossed the line, prompting the “referee” to step in and either edit, delete or even offer a cautionary comment to forum users. But in others it’s not so easy. That’s when an editor’s — a moderator’s — experience and judgment enter the equation. It’s not an exact science, but these days it’s a necessary evil and one of the tasks that keep being an editor both challenging and interesting.
— David Burke