Our View: A return to civility
February 26, 2019
Civility seems to be fading from our public discussions these days, and one of the places where social dialogue seems particularly harsh is in the realm of online commenting. It appears people feel more emboldened to be rude, dismissive and downright cruel when tapping away at a keyboard and hiding behind a computer screen.
According to the 2018 Civility in America survey — conducted annually since 2010 by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research — 93 percent of those surveyed said they believed the nation has a civility problem, and those respondents represented an equal split of Republicans and Democrats. In addition, 84 percent of the respondents said they had personally experienced incivility, and 69 percent blamed the internet and social media for the rise in bad behavior.
We've come to expect incivility on Facebook or on the cable news channels, but we shouldn't accept it here in our otherwise idyllic Yampa Valley. At our core, we're still a small community of committed, caring individuals, and it's important that we treat one another with dignity and respect, even when we disagree.
At a glance
At issue: Incivility is a growing societal problem and many point to social media as part of the problem.
Our View: We can't control the internet, but we can encourage Steamboat Springs and its surrounding communities to set a positive standard for civility.
Logan Molen, publisher
Lisa Schlichtman, editor
Robin Stone, community representative
Steve Hofman, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@
According to a recent article in Psychology Today, there is a "social contagion" element to incivility that causes the behavior to spread if it's not "confronted by corrective feedback or consequences."
It was with that idea in mind that Steamboat Pilot & Today adopted a new online commenting policy last year, and now, under each article online, readers will see a sentence that simply states, "Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil," and those who can't abide by the rules may see their comments deleted.
In recent weeks, the newspaper has had to ban several people from commenting because they could not refrain from personally attacking others for their differing views or who used profanity to express themselves. The Pilot & Today wants to continue providing a platform for community discussion, but the newspaper also wants to create a place where constructive dialogue takes place and opposing views are welcome.
These same parameters must be in place for other arenas of public dialogue, so that people feel safe and comfortable to express their views even if those views are seen as unpopular. Freedom of expression is a basic tenet of a democratic society, and we believe communities, like Steamboat, benefit from an open and respectful exchange of ideas.
We appreciate the approach the Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of County Commissioners have taken to set aside a designated time during each meeting to accept public comment on topics that fall outside of the agenda. This process allows citizens to speak their minds and gives elected officials the opportunity to listen to their constituents.
As topics of intense public interest arise, it's important to remember there are always two sides to any issue and, usually, multiple perspectives. To advance constructive dialogue, it's essential that people listen to one another, present their perspective with an emphasis on facts over emotion, focus on the common good rather than an individual agenda, refrain from personal attacks and bullying and communicate with an openness to other's ideas.
And then, it may just come down to agreeing to disagree. After all, we serve on boards together, run into one another at the grocery store and have children in the same grade at school, and in a town this size, there's no room for incivility.
It's easy to be overwhelmed and frustrated by the tenor of the national debate, but it's gratifying to know we do have the power to change the way we share our diverse views at the grassroots level. Steamboat is a well educated community full of people who have ideas, expertise and life experiences that are worth sharing, and it's important that we do our part to ensure all channels of public dialogue remain a place where ideas can be exchanged freely and respectfully for the good of the community.