Good newspapers should spark discussion in their communities. Even better newspapers find ways to facilitate that discussion.
It is with that in mind that the Steamboat Pilot & Today introduces Sound Off, a new feature that we hope will create more interaction with our readers.
More than anything else, Sound Off is a vehicle readers can use to express their views, from criticism of government to frustration about traffic to praise for those doing things right.
Each week, we will encourage readers to call our Sound Off line at 871-4248 and leave their comments. We will transcribe the comments daily and publish selected ones every Sunday.
Unlike letters to the editor, which must be signed, callers don't have to leave their names for their Sound Off comments to be published. Readers who aren't comfortable leaving phone messages can still participate in Sound Off. We will also take comments via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or readers can visit our Web site, www.steamboatpilot.com, and post comments in the Sound Off forum.
We'll mine all three mediums phone, e-mail and the forum for the most interesting thoughts to publish.
We are also incorporating our online poll into our Sound Off system with the Sound Off Question of the Week. As in the past, readers can vote on the question by visiting our Web site. But readers can also vote by calling our Sound Off line or by e-mailing their responses. We will also tie the weekly 'Boat Quote feature to the question of the week.
Past online polls have not always received strong responses. By allowing responses by e-mail and telephone, we're hoping to encourage greater participation.
Sound Off is not without risk. By allowing anonymity, we give readers the opportunity to express their views without fear of retribution. At the same time, anonymity can foster a tone that is harsher, more mean spirited than the tone of a letter signed by the author.
Hopefully, such comments will be the exception rather than the norm. Just to be clear though, we will edit Sound Off comments vigorously, just as letters to the editor are. Comments that are profane, slanderous or potentially libelous will not be published. Comments will also be edited for redundancy.
Our goal is to make sure the topics being talked about in the community are the topics being talked about in the Pilot & Today. Sound Off is a way to help us do that by giving readers a forum to speak their minds.
So if you have something to say but don't have the time or the desire to write a letter, call 871-4248 or e-mail email@example.com.
We're waiting to hear from you.