Here at U.S. 1, and at most other news organizations, editors are debating the practice of allowing unsigned opinions to be posted on their websites. Some believe that unsigned comments will often be less civil and less informed than signed comments. But others contend that the original defense of free speech was aimed at precisely such anonymous comments, offered by people who otherwise would have been persecuted for their beliefs and opinions.
Our website, www.princetoninfo.com, allows comments to be signed or unsigned, but it also alerts us to their content. We can remove offending words quickly.
This week we are unveiling one more component of our website, the dining and entertainment database. It too allows you to enter your comments and opinions (see ad, page 2). As the letter writer below aptly notes, civil discourse in any medium seems to be a scarce commodity these days. We hope our readers and website visitors will continue to be civil, even if they are also opinionated and outspoken.
#b#To the Editor: Dialog That’s Civil, And Productive#/b#
Not to defend social media (see Richard K. Rein, October 6), but I also wonder whether normal conversation, as usually practiced, is more deficient than we care to admit. In most social discourse, people are so busy trying to make a point, wondering what to say next, wanting attention, judging, projecting an image, or checking for text messages, that we don’t ever listen — which is where the true value of dialog lies.
Anyone interested in exploring another conversational model might resonate with Noodle Night, a monthly discussion group I have been leading at the Princeton Public Library since 2008. Our evenings are based on a collection of more than 500 questions related to personal life experience. (The questions are printed on fettuccini-like strips of paper — one reason why the full set is called Noodle Talk®.)
As we go around the assembled circle taking turns answering randomly chosen questions, some unusual things happen: one person speaks at a time, everyone participates equally, no one argues, and almost everything that’s said is interesting if not downright memorable or moving. In fact, it’s the rare Noodle Night that leaves me without fresh insight into myself and/or others, and a renewed appreciation for the human condition. How often does that happen in ordinary conversation?
Noodle Nights are the second Monday of the month, from 7-8:45 p.m. in the first floor Quiet Room of the library. Admission is free and open to all; no reservations are necessary. For details, the Noodle Night blog offers a peek inside each meeting: http://pnjnoodletalk.wordpress.com/
Alan Goldsmith, Kingston