I'm anonymous, you're a jerk

Aug 23, 2011

Over the past 19 months, WarehamVillageSoup.com has become Wareham’s source of daily news -- and an online “town common,” hosting lively debate about town affairs. More recently, the lively debate has generated a number of phone calls asking why Wareham Week tolerates such vile behavior by anonymous posters.

I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly repeat some of the comments I have made in the course of those phone calls.

WarehamVillageSoup.com is a lot more than Wareham Week put online. Yes, the site contains near-daily news stories written by our staff, most of which will later find their way into Wareham Week.

But the site is also designed to encourage community participation. It’s a place for citizens to voice their opinions and their opinions of other people’s opinions. It’s a place for businesses to promote their products and nonprofit organizations to promote their events. We write the news. The community writes its own contributions.

Some of those voices are less diplomatic than we wish they would be. Some of our commenters would be knocked out in Round 1 of a spelling bee. Most of our commenters choose not to use their own names. Why? That is probably a question that would be answered differently by every commenter. Some may be public officials. Others may be town employees. Others may be out-of-town residents. Others may have positions with local businesses and not want to involve those businesses in town politics. Others may simply want to hide behind a “screen name.”

It would be nice if all commenters had perfect spelling and grammar, were unfailingly polite and used their real names. Alas, reality is not so perfect. We know that. Editor Jaime Rebhan, reporter Cyndi Murray, and I regularly read new posts to the site. And we regularly delete posts that step over the line of propriety.

That is a far different standard than we apply to material that is printed on the pages of Wareham Week. But, Wareham Week is a newspaper. WarehamVillageSoup.com is a community website. It is a vibrant community website where interesting ideas are put forth and challenged and picked apart and sometimes reshaped into even more interesting ideas.

Sometimes that’s messy, but so is democracy.