I don’t know if I was prepared for what was in store for me when I began publishing ComebackTown 2 1/2 years ago. I had a simple goal to provide a forum to begin a conversation about a better Birmingham.
Who could possibly be against a better Birmingham?
And why would strangers personally attack me and my guest bloggers for trying to make things better? It’s perfectly fine to disagree–but why the personal attacks?
I’ve had more than one guest blogger beg me to remove their blog because they were embarrassed by the comments posted on al.com. As I told them, you could find a cure for cancer and some folks on al.com would still call you the devil.
It’s easy to lose perspective. There are thousands of ComebackTown readers, but only a few negative commenters. One may be left with the impression many readers are upset when it’s mostly the same few who make negative comments all over al.com.
If only al.com required commenters to make remarks in their own name.
Assume you were invited to a party. You dress in your regular street clothes, but the other guests wear costumes and masks. They know who you are, but you can’t see who they are. Within minutes, they start attacking you with impunity.
That’s what it can feel like writing for al.com. Pretty unsettling.
A few months ago I wrote a piece about lack of opportunities for blacks titled “Is Steven Hoyt evil?” It was a blog about Steven Hoyt, a City Councilman from Birmingham’s District 8, who stands up for his African-American constituents. Instead of commenting on the subject matter, one of the al.com commenters attacked me personally picking up on the “Is Steven Hoyt evil” title by writing, “Is David Sher a Nincompoop? Then others jumped on.
I’ve been called worse–but that’s the only name I will share. (There is a method to flag comments to remove them–but this is after the fact)
I strongly feel it would be best for Birmingham and for al.com if commenters were required to use real names. Then we could actually have an adult conversation.
What do you think–or are you afraid to make a comment for fear of being attacked by nameless strangers?
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).