PolicyMic New Year's Resolution: Build a Better Discussion Section

PolicyMic has grown tremendously in 2012, and we couldn't be prouder of our pundits and the community we've fostered together. I've written before about the importance of thoughtful, constructive debate in the discussion section of the site. As another year of growth begins here in the editors' office, we wanted to take the time to review our commenting standards to start the new year off right. We have faith that the depth and quality of political and cultural discussion on the site will continue to grow, but it can only do so if we continue to maintain our standards of mutual respect and purposeful debate and work together to make our discussion section the most thoughtful place on the web.

As the editor heading up coverage of issues of sex, sexuality, and gender in politics and culture, the content I oversee often addresses topics that are both extremely personal and extremely politically charged. With the growth of these stories on the site, I aim to get more and more millennials involved in thinking about issues of identity as they relate to their own lives, and to the world around them. Discussing such delicate issues meaningfully requires respecting personal differences, while recognizing how such differences may play out in our writing. But this doesn't just apply to what I write — it applies to any article on the site. We all bring our personalities to bear in our writing, and we all deserve to be treated with respect when we do.

So, as our New Year's resolution, here are a few tips to make sure that your commentary upholds the principles of democratic debate upon which PolicyMic is founded:

1. Personal attacks — especially those based on gender, sex, sexuality, racial identity, religious affiliation, etc. — will not be tolerated. Like many pundits, PolicyMic writers often make reference to their own identities (as a libertarian, feminist, conservative, Texan, immigrant, etc.) in their writing. However, that does not mean that attacking a writer based on some personal characteristic is appropriate or constructive. Instead, discussion should be focused on the argument being put forth, rather than attacking a particular person based on assumptions regarding who they are, what they believe, or why they believe it inferred from their argument.

2. Be respectful of new writers who are still working on finding and refining their writing voices. PolicyMic is proud to be a pioneer in news, commentary, and analysis aimed at and produced by millennials. Because our site is millennials-oriented, many of our writers are fairly young, and just starting out their writing careers; some are still in high school or college. The constructive criticism offered in the discussion section can be a huge boon to writers, but make sure all comments are meant either to help a writer improve their writing or point out a logical flaw, factual error, or ideological inconsistency in an article.

New writers just need practice. Helpful, thoughtful criticism in the dicussion section can be a great way to improve the writing of all PolicyMic pundits!

3. Before each comment, ask yourself, "How does this enrich or add to the discussion in the PolicyMic community?" If you can't come up with an answer, reconsider your comment.

4. And once again, PolicyMic always seeks to include more people on more topics for the richest conversation possible, so always encourage new voices to join into the conversation. If a perspective is missing, invite someone to share that perspective. If no one is talking about an issue, raise it yourself. If you think we're missing something, point it out to us.

We're looking forward to a great year here at PolicyMic, and to further promoting intelligent, nuanced criticism and debate in the discussion section. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or feedback, feel free to leave it in the comments, and Happy New Year!

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Sam Meier

Samantha Meier serves as the Identities editor at PolicyMic, where she writes on activism, gender, and new media. Sam was profiled in the New York Times for co-founding Sex Week at Harvard, and is currently working on a book about women and underground comix. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, she currently lives in New York.

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