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Be considerate with your comments

A lot gets said about what’s on the newspaper’s Web site, selmatimesjournal.com. I enjoy going to the site and seeing what people write in response to the stories and other items posted.

First of all, it instructs. Your response to a story tells me what stories drive readers to the newspaper; what you’re interested in and how you view what is happening in our area.

Secondly, your comments inform. Sometimes, you tell us things we had no way of finding out in the short time we have to put a newspaper together each day. And sometimes our readers help one another. For example, Poppa Dukes, a commenter, helped out the search and rescue group last Sunday when he responded to a story about a search for an accident victim in the Alabama River. Dukes wrote about his experiences diving in the area. He talked about particulars that enabled searchers to understand what was happening during their search.

But sometimes our readers become less helpful and more hurtful with their remarks. It’s times like these that we, Publisher Dennis Palmer and I, weigh the remarks in relationship to our terms of use.

For example, I’ve killed more than one good response because someone used a curse word, nothing vile, just a swear. But here’s the point. I don’t want someone’s 12-year-old, who is beginning to read the news online, to have to wade through swear words to get through a good commentary. It’s not acceptable. I want that child to read words fitting for a family newspaper. I wouldn’t want my grandma to read swear words. As much as she loved my father, she shuddered and fussed each time he uttered one.

There are other times when pure gossip enters the comments. They get zipped off. Gossip is gossip. Its easy to spot. Spitefulness also is not tolerated. If you don’t like someone, go tell them. Why hide behind a pseudonym and take pot shots? It’s unfair. If you know a so-called truth, then call Dennis or myself and we’ll check it out ourselves or send a reporter to do a story. Most of the time, the most spiteful remarks come from folks who “heard it on the street.” Well, the street committee is wrong or at least off base nearly 100 percent of the time.

As much as we read these remarks, there are some we miss that you, the reader, might find objectionable. All you have to do is flag the remark. A note comes to us, saying the remark has been flagged. That’s when we take another look at the comment, the terms of use and the possible objection. Most of the time, our readers have a good point for flagging the comments.

We’re glad you enjoy making comments on the Web site. We hope you will continue to respond to our stories, opinions, blogs and other items. But we also hope you will respond responsibly.