We could point to the number of complaints readers of cdapress.com have registered against obnoxious comments and those who write them, but we won't.
We could argue that page views of online comments, one source of funding that allows us to offer readership of cdapress.com free, has dropped because of the obnoxious comments and those who write them. But we won't do that, either.
Instead, we will admit that Press administrators have banned about a dozen frequent commenters from posting their thoughts on cdapress.com because we can no longer stomach the vile nature of their postings, from gut-wrenchingly racist remarks to thinly veiled threats of public officials.
For years, The Press has offered online readers the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas with few restrictions in the hopes that open, honest discussion of important issues would lead to greater understanding and better decision making. And for the most part, it's worked. It's worked except in a handful of cases where individuals consistently spew hatred and do their utmost to render honest, open discussion of diverse ideas impossible.
Respectful disagreement? Hardly. This handful of visitors seems to thrive on personally assailing those who disagree with them, of glorifying bigotry and racism, of jabbing sticks in the spokes of progress in the sort of civil discourse our nation's founders envisioned more than 200 years ago. So we did what many other newspapers are doing with their incorrigible posters: We kicked them to the cyber curb.
A common complaint from those who have been banned is that The Press is exercising censorship, striking a blow against the First Amendment it purports to defend. We see it very differently. We believe that by encouraging them to find other outlets for their anxiety, we're actually supporting the rest of the public's right to free speech because these antagonists can no longer bully or disgust conscientious citizens right off the page.
Almost immediately, the comment section of news stories, letters to the editor and other content took on a more civil, constructive tone. There's still plenty of disagreement; there's even occasional anger, but it's being disbursed with at least a modicum of respect for its intended targets.
To the many, many readers who have told us they abandoned the comment sections long ago, we invite you to revisit a place that we've tried to fashion into more of a conference room than a coliseum. We still have barking dogs, but no more bloodthirsty lions.