It has been more than a year now since racism and toxicity prompted us to remove reader comments from stories on Indigenous issues on SooToday, and a little over seven months have passed since we went ahead and shut off comments on the rest of our local news stories.
We haven't said a lot about the issue since then. The vast majority of those who reached out after comments disappeared told us they agreed that the comments section had ceased to be meaningful. Only a handful of readers told us it was a bad move.
Has our newsroom missed them? A little. But only in the sense that we do miss submissions from those readers who, in good faith, did try to comment with thoughtful responses to our articles.
We don't miss the toxicity, the trolling, the prejudice, the name-calling and, of course, we certainly don't miss the endless moderation.
You may have noticed that two weeks ago that some of our news articles started to appear with a new feature at the bottom that asks readers to 'Add to the story'.
The idea is simple: Readers once again have the option to respond to our stories with thoughtful responses.
For clarity, I should state right now that this is not comments. You can't 'reply' to a previous submission, and the submission itself (at this stage) won't show up under the story itself.
I should also state that our intention is clear: We want the community to engage in a respectful dialogue.
No toxicity, no name-calling, and no trolling allowed.
It doesn't have to be positive. It doesn't have to be 1,000 words long (although, we'd love to see some longer responses).
It just has to be thoughtful and on topic.
Our plan, at this stage, is that we'll go through them one-by-one and decide where they should go. Some, when they warrant it, will run as standalone Letters to the Editor. Others we'll highlight in a summary at least once a week.
As SooToday+ members, you'll also notice a prompt asking you to submit a question. That's our way of opening a two-way dialogue between you and our reporters and editors. We'll do our best to respond during our work days.
Feel free to let us know what you think!