Scott Stanford is general manager of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Call him at 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com
Steamboat Springs I have defended Sound Off numerous times. Most recently, I defended it in this space on March 30.
But after discussions with our publisher (Bryna Larsen) and city editor (Brent Boyer), I have decided that Sound Off has run its course. Sunday will be the final time we publish Sound Off comments in the newspaper. If you have something to get off your chest, call 871-4248 or e-mail email@example.com in the next 48 hours.
We created Sound Off in January 2002, so it had a nice five-year run. I believe it served its purpose well - it engaged a segment of our readership who had something to say but did not feel comfortable writing letters to the editor. However, we have reached the point where we receive only a handful of publishable comments per week.
To all you anonymous yahoos who think you're being censored or that your rights to freedom of speech are being trampled because we are yanking the plug on Sound Off - get over it. The Pilot & Today isn't stopping you from saying or writing whatever you want. But requiring a newspaper to guarantee the publication of anonymous comments submitted to it not only is stupid, but also violates the newspaper's free speech rights.
That said, we will continue to publish pseudo-anonymous reader comments on community issues. Here's how:
The Internet has played a significant role in the decline of participation in Sound Off. When we re-designed our Web site, we added a tool that allows readers to post comments directly to the bottom of published stories. We receive far more reader comments on the Web than we do Sound Off comments.
That makes sense, because the Web site is much more user-friendly than Sound Off. There is no one to filter the comments (unless I decide the comment is inappropriate and delete it) and the reward is immediate - the post goes up right away, no waiting for the next edition of Sound Off.
Starting Jan. 6, we will publish select comments posted to stories or to the reader forum from our Web site. The comments will continue to be anonymous, but we will include the posters' steamboatpilot.com usernames. We will call the feature "From Steamboatpilot.com," include an explanation of how the comments were gathered and publish it on Page 5A in the Sunday Pilot & Today, where Sound Off currently runs.
Like Sound Off, the newspaper's editors will have sole discretion to decide what gets published in "From Steamboatpilot.com." Web users should know when they created a steamboatpilot.com account, they agreed to give the newspaper the right to republish and redistribute content they post to the Web site.
For those wondering abut the Question of the Week, it will continue in its online format, and we will continue to publish the results. But readers can no longer vote by e-mail or phone. Online participation in the Question of the Week numbers hundreds of people now that the question is in the center of steamboatpilot.com.
If you have questions about the demise of Sound Off or the new From Steamboatpilot.com feature, call or e-mail me.