Remember that time we here at IND Media announced we were going all digital with The Independent — embracing the future, grasping a new era, to infinity and beyond, yada yada? Well, we did.
But something happened on the way to the Jetsons’ picnic: social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the rest are great for their immediacy, for reaching and engaging readers. But they’re also a magnet for our worst instincts — for the trolls who hide behind pseudonyms and hurl sarcasm; who have nothing to offer the conversation. They’ve been there since the advent of social media and the internet and they will always be there. But that doesn’t mean we need to countenance them.
In the interest of having genuine discourse — sharing ideas in a civil way — we’re bringing back a 20th century phenomenon: the letter to the editor. At the bottom of all stories at theind.com you’ll see a rectangular graphic bearing the legend, “We want to hear from you./Click here to send a letter to the editor.” The link brings you to a form. You have to provide an email address and daytime telephone number so we can verify your identity, but we won’t publish the telephone number and will only publish the email address if you want us to. Simply type your letter into an expandable field and hit send. Your letter arrives in Managing Editor Walter Pierce’s inbox. After verification, we’ll publish your letter on theind.com as well as to social media where, we hope, the better angels of our nature will prevail.
A few readers have already stumbled on the new feature and taken advantage of it — to post the same genus of pithy, poorly spelled sarcasm we see ad nauseum in the comment threads on Facebook. Others have used the new feature in lieu of our clearinghouse email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to send us news tips. We’ll take the tips but pass on the snips. What we’re really looking for are traditional letters to the editor — thoughts composed, sentences punctuated, the rules of grammar observed (to the best of your ability; rest assured that we will edit them for clarity and punctuation). Letters, you know? They might be a lost art, but what’s lost can often be found again.
We’re also about to begin enforcing a social media policy that requires comments come from actual people, not from those hiding behind screen names. You know who you are — own your opinions. We do. We’re also going to start making a more concerted effort to police comment threads for personal attacks, bigotry, racism, sexism and any other ism that polite society shuns.
As for those really old-fashioned, hand-written letters to the editor: Don’t waste your time — we laid off our transcriptionist ages ago.