As of this writing, the Daily Press has more than 5,700 “friends” on our Facebook page. And while social media are not the most effective means of gathering and disseminating news, they have become a valuable tool in our arsenal of platforms.
Many folks – even those who are online with other venues – remain leery of Facebook. Some say the postings and comments move too quickly for them, and that they’re not able to keep up. Others dislike the tendency of many posters to become angry and let their fingers do the talking, upsetting or offending their peers, and sometimes bordering dangerously on libel, defamation, or privacy invasion.
As we’ve explained to many readers, newspapers are held to a higher legal standards than generic bloggers or “social” walls not associated with an official media outlet. That’s why we must also hold our readers – or “friends” who post on our Facebook wall – to higher standards.
“Freedom of the press,” as we’ve pointed out many times, does not mean the freedom to say whatever we want, with impunity. The First Amendment clause was established to protect the media itself from being silenced by the government. And if we must be careful what we say in accordance with legal constraints, then we must also ask our online friends to do the same.
This is why sometimes we will delete a thread that contains inflammatory comments. Readers frequently private-message us to ask why we did that, and we’ll try to explain. We hope folks trust that, with the years of experience we have under our collective belts and the other expert resources at our disposal, we know what’s safe, and what’s not. We’re not trying to suppress opinions; we’re merely trying to protect ourselves and those who participate in our forum.
But make no mistake: Your opinions are important. We may not always agree with them, and you will not always agree with ours. But we want to hear what you and others have to say, as long as your comments are delivered in a civil tone, and with respect to the newspaper and others following our wall.
With that in mind, we’ve begun a series of forums on our wall. Every weekend, we hope to ask a question relevant to current events, and we’ll be seeking input from you, our readers. Sometimes we may use the comments in a story for our print and e-editions; other times, we’ll just be trying to stimulate a conversation.
We have a number of well-informed, articulate and engaged folks among our Facebook “friends.” Several have already contributed significantly to issues we’ve discussed there. Only a few have crossed the civility line, forcing us to delete a thread before it got out of hand. Even more impressive is the fact that, during the time the Press has been on Facebook, we’ve only had to ban about a dozen people from our site for refusal to respect our policies.
If you’re not already on Facebook and would like to jump into the conversation, join up at www.facebook.com, and then click “like” on our page; it’s at www.facebook.com/tdpress. We update our page six or seven times a day, letting you know what we’ve planned for the next day’s editions; posting links to unusual or important national stories; putting up briefs of community events at the request of readers; and asking you questions through polls or ongoing conversations with other friends.
While we will remove comments that accuse people of crimes without absolute proof, or invade their privacy, we welcome your viewpoints and your criticisms of government policies, community happenings, elected officials, and more. We will also post events of a nonprofit nature for you, but you must send us a private message with your request; we ask that you not attach it to an unrelated post, but rather stay on topic. We also ask that you do not post under the “recommendations” panel. Many people can read only parts of these, and we remove them as soon as we see them, because we feel we have a right to check what you post before it’s made public. Again, this goes along with that higher legal standard we mentioned earlier.
So, we invite you to find some spare time to get involved in the conversation: during work or lunch breaks, on weekends, during the evening. You’re sure to find something that interests you.