Many reader comments in the Daily Planet are of the “Right on!” variety, praising or thanking our writers for their reporting or opinions or both. Almost as many are of the “Drop dead!” variety, wondering how the Planet could have published something so misleading or wrong-headed or both.
Both kinds are valuable indicators, but neither leads easily into deeper exploration or further conversation. Alas.
A rarer kind of critique offers Planet writers new information that the commenter thinks has been omitted or overlooked — and thus tries to change the perspective or broaden the discussion or steer it in a different direction.
To my mind, comments like that are among the most valuable for community journalism. Here are two examples from the week just past:
Sheila Regan’s opinion column on June 15, When is a public meeting not public? recounted a “listening session” of St. Paul school board members at which her presence as a Planet reporter raised “a bit of a hullabaloo.” Regan’s column sparked 10 vigorous comments quickly. Among them was one that questioned her complaint. That prompted a counter-comment from Planet Editor Mary Turck, and then a counter-counter comment to Turck. Here is the first of that exchange:
Mark Erickson — I have no problem with you pushing to attend this meeting and write about this issue, but your citation of the Open Meeting Law isn’t the whole story. This session wouldn’t qualify as a “meeting” so the law doesn’t apply here. A quorum of the school board wasn’t there so no official business could be conducted. It was an informal listening session, as they said. You are aware that your presence likely changed what was said at the session, right? Like most things, there is a trade-off here between the general public’s right to know and honest communication between a specific group of the public and St. Paul Public Schools.
Here’s another example on a very different topic: When Andy Singer wrote “Imagine an Ayd Mill linear park” (a blog we reposted from Streets.MN on June 17) he reviewed the history of that road in St. Paul, and urged action to upgrade it at least as “something other than a freeway.” He expressed his and others’ enthusiasm for an innovative park instead.
That prompted this sobering comment from
Teri Breton — “Despite recent legal obstacles, there are reasons to believe this dream is still very much alive” is a gross misstatement. Canadian Pacific Rail is adamant that the right-of-way granted the City for Ayd Mill Road be used for “transportation” only and it has been successful in court over and over again in NOT ALLOWING the City of St. Paul to use that land for anything that might be considered recreation, including a bicycle path, and their position on this has been upheld in court. (See for example www.tcdailyplanet.net/sites/www.tcdailyplanet.net/files/Canadian%20Pacific%20judgment_0.pdf).
Obviously, what the Planet prints first is not the last word, and nor are the words that follow from readers. Both are organic to a living community observing its own life from multiple viewpoints. So don’t forget, reader comments are the lifeblood of community conversation in the Daily Planet. Join in. Agree or disagree. Praise or criticize. Be brief, be civil, be heard!