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Another Perspective: Online comments

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By Sergio Quintana

Over the last several months I have established a new online habit.

As a voracious news consumer I will scan several online news sources; The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate), KTVU.com, the Dallas Morning News, The Los Angeles Times and others. And of course thanks to the online edition of the The Las Vegas Optic, I can call up the latest happenings of my hometown.

For most of these sources I focus primarily on the news stories.  I want to read the facts as garnered by journalists compiling information for their readers — with one exception.

Along with the news articles, I have recently become especially attached to the Opinion section of the Optic and the online responses to the news articles.

I’ve been submitting letters to the editor since I was a student at Memorial Middle School. Back then, and still today, I feel there is something special about offering a well-reasoned point of view to be examined by your community. Having submitted a few recent opinions to be published by the editors of the Optic, I enjoyed reading through the online responses.

To be quite honest, the online responses were some of the most enjoyable pieces of public discourse I got to read. Some opinions were rough and raw. Others were sharp and to the point. And most were very informative about the way Las Vegans truly feel about their community and the world around them.   

But there was also the flip side of those comments, and what finally led the Optic to end the responses. Since most people submitted their posts anonymously, they often had no regard for what they wrote. Some posted responses that were disrespectful, a few were downright ugly. And very often, some posters with dubious handles like “The Book Of Acts” simply hijacked the response strings with opinions that seemed to be intentionally incoherent.

Still, I strongly disagree with the decision to terminate the online responses.

The right to voice an opinion is the bedrock of a free society. And the opportunity to provide a forum for those opinions and points of view to be expressed is one of the most important roles journalism can provide. Further, in the year 2010, online responses are one of the simplest and efficient ways news organizations can keep their readers dialed into the discussion.

Of course, the Optic should probably end anonymous posts.  But by ending online posts completely, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.  

In the lead up to the decision to end the responses, Editor and Publisher Tom McDonald asked readers to flag posts they found inappropriate.  

Perhaps as a reader I should have done that.  But as the publisher of the Optic I would suggest Mr. McDonald and the rest of the Optic’s lean staff could also participate in the online forums by calling out offensive or inaccurate posts with their own posts. And if need be, delete posts that are completely over the line of good taste and respect.  

I really hope the online responses return. What’s more, I hope readers will return and continue posting their thoughts.  And, I hope those who do post their opinions realize that your writings are not restricted to a Las Vegas, N.M. audience. What you post will be saved and available for the world to see. They are one of the ways people, like me, who currently lives two states away, can see how Las Vegas continues to work.

Sergio Quintana is a Robertson High School graduate who now lives in SanFrancisco, Calif. He may be reached at SergioQ154@yahoo.com.