When we put out the call for community bloggers back on June 11, we pretty much accepted everyone in the first wave of responses -- we did not screen anyone based on their religion, their politics, or what have you. As it turns out, we have one or two bloggers who tend to emphasize religious themes. We didn't seek them out, but their presence is not unexpected in a Bible Belt community like Shelbyville. It doesn't mean that only Christians are welcome here or that we'll never have a non-Christian blogger. In fact, we've already gotten some good, vigorous back-and-forth debate going on religious issues in the comment sections of various blog posts, which is as it should be.
There are disclaimers on our new site that it's impossible for us to screen all posts and comments for offensive material. We have given you, the reader, a mechanism for reporting profane or otherwise offensive material to us. But we do try to keep an eye on this program, and -- especially now that we're just starting out -- there are practical limits to how many blogs we can keep an eye on. As we've discovered, the way that our blogs are laid out on the site (which comes from our corporate offices in Missouri) isn't designed for 50 or 100 bloggers, and I tend to doubt we'll be hosting 100 blogs any time in the next few months. I don't rule it out down the road, but for right now I thought it would be good if we started with a manageable-sized group of bloggers. That's a practical decision, not an ideological one.
It's always possible for anyone to start a blog, any time, for free, using services like wordpress.com or blogger.com.
One of the founding principles of the Internet is that whatever you do, someone complains about it. We've already had a couple of people who claim that we only allow Christian bloggers, or that we only want positive comments, or that we have in some other way tried to stack the deck. It just isn't true. The very fact that these people are welcome to use our site to make these comments goes a long way towards disproving them; if we were, as the complainers allege, trying to control the ideology of this forum, why would we allow their comments?
I also, in one of my previous posts, said that if anyone was really interested in having a blog they should go ahead and contact me about being added to the list. Neither of the people who complained about our so-called ideological slant contacted me, just as neither of them asked for a blog back in June when the door was wide open. Instead, at least one of them has continued to complain that we aren't interested in a variety of viewpoints -- which is ridiculous.
We are hoping for a vigorous exchange of opinions. We want people from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints to use this system.
But we ask that people stay focused on ideas, not personal attacks. Make your own point, and point out the flaws in others' arguments, but don't call names, and don't jump to conclusions about someone just because they disagree with you. That should apply to our bloggers and to the people who respond to them.