I have, however, recently begun to log on the the online version, This is Bristol. I wanted to keep up to date with the proposed Tesco development on the site of our local football stadium and decided that this would be the easiest way to do so. I was also interested in hearing other people's views on the matter.
Good idea? Well, yes and no. I was able to keep up with developments, albeit biased in favour of Tescos, but as for a rational debate on the pros and cons, forget it. Every article provoked a flurry of comments but the majority of them were irrelevant, prejudiced or downright offensive. Whenever anyone made a serious point they were met with ridicule and scorn. The comments section was dominated by a few individuals who appeared to have nothing better to do all day than to trade insults with each other. I was never brave enough to sacrifice my opinions to their ravaging.
Today I logged on to read Mike Ford's report on the 'Love Bemmy' meeting I attended on Monday evening. This was arranged to allow a group of Bedminster/Southville residents to hear from the woman who had been the inspiration and driving force behind last year's Love Easton campaign. I was impressed by what I heard and, given that it was our first meeting, the subsequent discussion had gone well. Nothing was decided but there was recognition of the value of such an enterprise and enthusiasm for the tasks ahead. Mike Ford wasn't as impressed, but once again it was the comments that caused me to despair. It would have been wonderful if contributors could have come up with suggestions as to how such a campaign might work, or even issues that might stand in its way, but instead it was the usual toxic blend of fear and prejudice that does nothing to foster a healthy community and everything to destroy it.
This time I did make my contribution, not in the comments section, but in an email to the editor suggesting that if the paper aspires to be the forum for discussion the city needs, then it must surely adopt some form of moderation.