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Once in a while City Paper sees a nice conversation in the comment section under an article—people add new perspectives, challenge assumptions, or even exchange ideas with one another. But these kinds of conversations materialize a few times each year. On the average day we see a handful of random or rude remarks. Usually these comments are meant to tear down one person or a group of people—either attack the writer, a person we’ve written about, or an entire demographic.
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Meanwhile, the majority of the online conversation about our articles has moved elsewhere—to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and a variety of other forums. These platforms allow for long, extended conversations. And though readers can still spew hate on social media, City Paper usually sees healthy conversations and legitimate complaints on these sites. Twitter especially allows for us to engage with readers, both publicly and privately.
We also offer opportunities to speak about big articles and issues in person. On the 50th anniversary of the 1968 riot and uprising after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, we held a large public forum. In the height of the battle over Initiative 77, a few hundred people came to listen to a panel and share (or shout, in some cases) their views. On Jan. 6, 2019, we’ll host a reading to celebrate our fiction issue. We hope to continue and increase these kinds of events.
And readers can always reach us directly. All of City Paper’s writers have Twitter accounts. Our office phone numbers and email addresses are public. On occasion, we still get an honest-to-goodness letter to the editor, and we delight in those, including the critical ones. Any time we get a good stream of direct feedback on an article, we can use this column to present the notes we’re getting.
Our intention is not to shut down a conversation, but rather to focus our energy on more productive and well-populated conversations.