Talk with the Editor: Strengthening the conversation

We're going to move later this week to a different system for commenting on stories on — one that will require you to comment through a Facebook account rather than a screen name.

I don't want to kid anybody: For some commenters, the change will be an adjustment. We're mindful of that, and we're going to try to make it as easy as possible to make the transition. If you don't have a Facebook account, we'll help you create one.

The shift will for the most part end anonymous commenting. You'll have to stand behind what you say, just as you do in any other conversation. For some commenters, that concept too may seem troublesome at first.

But while change frequently is difficult, this is a good thing. A good thing!

I'm excited about the prospects of what it will do to help increase the levels of conversation in our community.

Yes, it should promote a more civil tone, and that's the main reason we started looking into it. (We've been studying this topic for more than a year now, including discussions with readers and a number of debates within the newsroom.) And civility is important, but it is only a part of what this change offers.

The shift in systems also should promote greater interaction between you and our staff and greater interaction between you and other members of the audience.

But not only that. It has the power to promote greater interaction within the community as a whole. It should spur stronger conversations within our audience but also ones that include friends and neighbors who may not be part of our audience.

That conversation — the public forum — is at the heart of what newspapers always have been about. It's an essential part of our role.

In days of yore, it used to be limited primarily to the Opinion Page of the printed edition — in our case, the Fence Post letters to the editor.

But today's digital world has greatly expanded the reach of that part of our role. The better all of us in the community can take part in the conversation, the better we can engage in the public debates, the better we can come to know each other as neighbors, the better involved we can be in the democracy and the better off we all can be.

We believe that.

It's one of the guiding principles of newspapering, and as integral today as when Johannes Gutenberg introduced the press.

We hope, as always, that you'll take part in the conversation.

(We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility. ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen.)

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