COLUMN: Comments open online conversation

Newspaper takes the art of conversation to the next level.

Nanaimo, it’s time we had a chat.

The News Bulletin has always encouraged community discussion of issues through our letters page, which we consider a forum that readers’ own as a place to express their views on a variety of topics.

It’s a lively place where a healthy conversation generally takes place.

A few years back, we added a commenting feature on our website, as a further way to encourage reader participation and engagement, both with the newspaper and the community.

Now we, as a company, are hoping to take that conversation even further.

Earlier this week, our commenting platform moved to Facebook.

To comment on stories you must register with Facebook or already have a Facebook account.

Facebook haters and holdouts will likely decry the move, but as social media continues to grow its role in the day-to-day lives of Canadians, it makes sense for our newspaper to put itself in the mix.

The new system gives users of Facebook a stronger link to our news site, and also increases accountability by making it tougher to post comments anonymously.

It gives you the option of posting comments to our website while simultaneously posting the comment and a story link to your wall to share with your Facebook friends.

In short, along with our efforts to use Twitter (we tweet every news story as its posted to our website) to keep readers/followers apprised of the stories we’re working on/publishing, this move helps us do a better job of bringing you the news you want to know about.

If a story is interesting enough that it elicits a comment from you, there’s a good chance your friends might also be interested and want to join the conversation. Facebook’s platform already enables that kind of interaction, so it’s a logical move to be a part of it and, hopefully, expand the conversation.

But having accountability in the discussion is equally important.

While other news outlets and websites allow commenters to post anonymously with impunity, we’ve tried to advance the conversation on community issues respectfully and without the guise of fake names, pseudonyms, etc.

We always asked online commenters to register, now we’re more easily able to know whether they’re using their true identity.

As for those Facebook haters and holdouts, it’s true that social media isn’t without its hazards – Paulina Gretzky’s racy Twitpics making her just the latest high-profile (or offspring of a high-profile, more accurately) victim of their own social media slipups.

Like any information-sharing medium, probably far more so than any other, given the ubiquitous and all-encompassing nature of the Internet, social media use comes with a not-insignificant responsibility on the user.

Whether it’s a comment or a photo, post only what you’re comfortable with everyone you know (and everyone you don’t) being exposed to.

While some point to the insidious nature of Facebook and its attempts to get at and share personal information for profit, many serious Facebook follies are, to some degree, people’s own fault. They posted something they shouldn’t have.

Regardless, the move to Facebook commenting platform occurred earlier this week.

The hope is it makes for a better, more respectful and more engaged forum for readers and residents to carry on a discussion.

Let us know what you think about this move, or about the continually evolving role of social media, either by the traditional methods (letter to the editor via snail mail, e-mail or fax) or by commenting on this column as it appears on our website (www.nanaimobulletin.com).

We’re looking forward to chatting with you.

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