Inside higher education has posted reader comments on our articles since we launched the site in January 2005. We have done so as part of our core belief that good journalism depends on building a sense of community in which readers can share their voices. We wanted to make sure that everyone in higher education, regardless of their position or institution, had the opportunity to bring their point of view.
At times, the comments have dramatically improved our understanding of our readers and their views on higher education and the various articles we publish – positive and negative. And many readers welcome the perspectives of their peers.
In recent years, however, we’ve faced the same challenges that many other online editors have when it comes to commenting. The comment sections have become dominated by a small number of readers. As is the case with so many elements of the digital landscape, our comments reflect the magnification of interpersonal discourse, especially when people communicate anonymously, as the majority of our reviewers do. (We have allowed anonymous comments to protect adjunct faculty and vulnerable staff members who might have a legitimate fear for their jobs if identified.) The comments have become a deterrent to a significant number of our readers and have lost out. much of their value.
We’ve already done our best to tame the worst elements of our reviews while still keeping their original promise. Several years ago, we asked readers for their feedback and imposed new rules that we hoped would deter those who mistreat others while continuing to provide an open forum for the exchange of points. of view. Unfortunately, these changes failed to improve the relevance and civility of comments.
We remain committed to sharing the views of readers and are delighted to announce that we are replacing comments with Letters to the Editor effective next week, July 1, 2020. Letters have long been a part of the media. information, and we admire that tradition. Much like comments, letters to the editor can provide our readers with new perspectives on key issues. We hope that the importance of Letters to the Editor will encourage thoughtful and civil submissions; if readers disagree with an opinion expressed in an article, they can send a letter to the editor to respectfully challenge that view.
How will letters be different from comments?
- We aim to publish letters that add to the debate on an issue and say something different from what has been said so far. A letter that simply repeats the points made by previous letters cannot be printed.
- Special efforts will be made to publish letters which do not agree with the perspective taken by Inside higher education articles or opinions.
- A letter should refer to the article or opinion piece in question.
- In most cases, letters should include the author’s (real) name and job title. In cases where the author may encounter professional or other difficulties in expressing an opinion, Inside higher education will consider publishing an unnamed letter. Those wishing to be considered should indicate their reason (on the submission form).
We expect to receive fewer letters to the editor than we received comments. But we hope they will be more substantial and useful. We also hope that they will provide a more civil platform for discussion and debate.
Letters to the Editor can be sent to [email protected]. As always, you are welcome to contact the editors (without anything being published) at [email protected].
Inside higher education continues to believe that our talented journalists and thoughtful contributors collectively lack the knowledge and wisdom about what goes on in higher education and that our readers need to be part of the conversation.
We depend on you and your perspectives to broaden ours and those of your peers and hope you embrace this new way of doing it.