Web site a tool, not a weapon
I can tell that The Brewton Standard's web site, www.brewtonstandard.com, is useful to a lot of people because when it's not updated promptly, I get calls and emails from people outside of the Brewton area wondering when they'll be able to read our latest news online. I also get calls and emails every week from people who have read content on our website or are looking for assistance in locating content.
I frequently use the website myself to look up old stories in our archives -- a feature that is available to all visitors to the site. Every Monday morning and Wednesday morning, the site is updated with news, lifestyles, sports, opinions, photos and obituaries from the latest edition of the paper. The website is not a replacement for the newspaper in that it doesn't contain all of its content and photos, but for research into past issues and keeping up with Brewton from other locations, it's a good tool.
Another feature on www.brewtonstandard.com is the community message board. Many readers post messages when they are in search of class members, interested in the history of Brewton landmarks, or to announce events that the whole community might be interested in. The message board is a great forum for anyone who lives in Brewton or East Brewton -- or is interested in these communities -- to gather and exchange ideas.
However, this week, we implemented a new procedure for using the message board. For the time being, all messages posted to the discussion board will be screened before they appear on the web site for everyone to view.
This is in no way designed to limit our visitors' exchange of information or to censor comments so they only reflect certain ideas. In fact, I think it's constructive for community members to voice their concerns about the community and to make suggestions for positive change because without those ideas, progress can't be made. But we've found this week that a line has to be drawn between constructive criticism of the community and specific slanderous statements toward individuals in the community.
Because www.brewtonstandard.com is part of The Brewton Standard, we are responsible for its content, just as we are responsible for anything published in the printed version of the newspaper. It's our responsibility to make that content informative, fair and accurate. When the website message board is used as it's intended, as a gathering point for people who want to discuss and learn about Brewton, where it's been and where it's going, we don't have to worry about monitoring its content too closely. But when there's a danger of this feature being misused in ways that threaten the reputation of specific individuals or our responsiblity to be fair and accurate, we'll be watching closely and protecting that content.