Thoughtful discourse is welcome on the San Francisco Examiner’s new website and comments section. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Let’s continue meaningful conversations on The Examiner’s new website

We launched a new website site on Monday afternoon, and for a period, The Examiner seemed to have become a black hole in the online galaxy. Thankfully, the error messages readers received during the transition from the old site to the new one were relatively short-lived.

And as much as it was nice to know that we were missed by readers, we want to thank you for your patience during the downtime.

And thank you in advance for understanding if there are some post-launch glitches. We hope you think it was worth the inconvenience. Our new website has more sections, it’s designed to be easier to navigate both on mobile and desktop, and it loads faster than our previous one. I really like its sharper look.

Plans to upgrade our website have been in the works for several months, and we are excited that the new site is finally here. We’ve already heard from readers with suggestions, compliments and complaints. We are addressing the latter whenever possible.

The loudest complaints centered around our new article commenting system: Facebook. Some readers were angry that we chose Facebook. One reader vowed never to comment again, while others, ironically, complained about the new commenting platform while on the new commenting platform.

My last column explored the pros and cons of the former commenting system in which some readers were flagging — and therefore hiding — the comments of other readers they disagreed with.

The Facebook system will essentially make it impossible for readers to do that. And, it also requires commenters to use their real names, something we hope will closer replicate face to face conversations, and therefore encourage respectful discussions.

There is, of course, a downside, which I understand. When news organizations first started using Facebook for commenting, Facebook was more beloved. More recently, concerns about privacy have brought a backlash against social media companies such as Facebook. Some people have even opted out of using Facebook completely.

Some readers do not want to foster the growth of Facebook, while others want to avoid using their real names out of privacy concerns, or fear of being ridiculed by others on the site.

Beyond article commenting, we want to foster other ways to have conversations. That is why I am working to add a letters to the editor section to complement our Opinion page, so stay tuned. Thank you to the readers who suggested that feature, which used to be part of our publications.

Many of you sent other creative suggestions, such as having a university journalism department help with the moderation of our commenting section.

One reader’s suggestion really resonated with me. The best way to encourage civil conversations, the reader said, is “to model what civil discourse looks like.”

The reader even offered a template for that: “In response to article X, the problem of Y can be summarised as——. In my opinion, the following solution(s) are:….. Best regards, Reader Z.”

Now that is a graceful way of resolving our differences.

Meanwhile, I think it’s time to move on from the topic of article commenting topic to others that may be on your mind.

Send your questions and comments to and put “Ask the Editor” in the subject line.

Deborah Petersen is the editor- in-chief of San Francisco Media Company which publishes The Examiner, SF Weekly and SF Evergreen.

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