Bridge Michigan is ending the comments section on our website. Here’s why.
Bridge Michigan has decided, reluctantly, to eliminate reader comments on the Bridgemi.com website. And readers are owed an explanation for the change.
At its best, our comments platform provided vigorous debate on the most important public policy decisions facing Michigan and a mechanism for engaging readers across the state. It alerted us to factual errors along with important critiques of our reporting. We believed comments left by Bridge readers were, on the whole, more thoughtful than what we were seeing on the websites of other news operations.
But in recent years, we have witnessed growing hostility and invective in the comments section, as I noted in a column last summer. Many of you saw the same trend, as you expressed in emails, phone calls and at reader events as part of our public engagement work at The Center for Michigan, the parent organization of Bridge Michigan. Name-calling and meanness do not elevate civic discourse.
This was not an easy decision. We agonized over this choice for months in an effort to reconcile the competing goals of providing a virtual town hall for diverse opinions (including readers critical of our news coverage) while furthering our goal of restoring civility and tamping down the temperature in a hyper-charged political environment.
At Bridge, we screened comments before they were published, and we got a ton of them. Increasingly, the forum has been hijacked by a dozen or so voices who may have differed in ideology but, too often, shared a propensity for disrespect, racism, profanity or personal attacks. This degraded our ability to promote civil discourse and, readers told us, discouraged many of them from taking part.
This does not mean Bridge Michigan is no longer interested in your feedback. There remain multiple paths for us to hear from you and for you to comment publicly on our nonpartisan journalism.
You still can comment on Facebook and Twitter, which have tools for users to block or report inappropriate comments. Bridge Michigan has a Contact Us page for questions or comments. You can contact Bridge reporters and editors directly by clicking on bylines or searching staff contacts on our “About” page. And readers can request permission to publish commentary on Michigan issues.
For those of you who contributed thought-provoking insights on topics Bridge Michigan has covered over the years, thank you. There are many of you, and we appreciate the time and perspective you’ve contributed to our work. You have made us better, and our work smarter. We continue to value your voice and your advice. Please keep writing and letting us know what you think through the contact links above.
We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please donate and help us reach our goal of 15,000 members in 2021?