GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 5, 2012

Letter: The signed letter and the need for named accountability


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the Editor:

“Why do you do it?”

That was the question I was asked in an email I got a couple a days after returning to Vieques from a person I do not know.

The emailer wanted to know why I continue to write letters to the Daily Times, given the nasty abuse anonymous comments my letters can elicit online. She shared with me that a friend of hers, another liberal letter writer, has grown so disgusted and offended by the ugly, inappropriate, and almost always anonymous comments posted in response to her letters, she no longer bothers to read the comments.

I am sure many of the right wing, anonymous posters who now dominate the Gloucester Times’ comment threads will find that funny. I can even predict the likely content of their nasty responses to this letter, so true to form do they operate.

I first began contributing to the Daily Times more than 20 years ago, during my tenure as the director of AIDS services in the city, first at NUVA and then at HES.

I did so because I believed, as I do now, that community newspapers are an excellent venue through which to not just deliver the local news, but to also provide a public forum, via the op-ed pages, to people from across the political spectrum, and from various backgrounds, to share their opinions, perspectives, and perceptions with the broader community.

I’ve also come to believe the requirement that written letters, opinion pieces, and now on line commentary, be duly signed by a contributor is absolutely essential to protecting the integrity of any medium that claims to want to promote constructive political and social discourse today.

I say that because nothing proves just how destructive I believe anonymous posting can be more than seeing what has happened to the online forums of the Gloucester Daily Times over the past few years. But don’t take my word for it. Ask other liberal letter writers who can no longer even stomach to look at what the cowardly, right wing, anonymous posters have to say in response to the letters to which she has the courage to sign her name.

The $64,000 question, given so many papers across the country, from Maine to Hawaii, including two of the Daily Times’ sister publications, have done away with anonymous posting, remains why does the current leadership of the Daily Times continue to enable those who lack the courage of their convictions to spew their venom at those with whom they disagree from behind the protective veil of anonymity?

I believe more and more people on Cape Ann, including more than a few who once participated in the comment threads, are eagerly awaiting an answer.

MICHAEL COOK

Mambiche, Vieques, PR

and Gloucester