Dave Schmall: They’re baaaaaaaaaaack! Web comments return to TheUnion.com | TheUnion.com

Dave Schmall: They’re baaaaaaaaaaack! Web comments return to TheUnion.com

Dave Schmall

Photo for The Union John Hart

There's no doubt we live in a passionate, highly engaged community with myriad opinions on just about every topic. As evidence, The Union publishes more than a thousand letters in "Letters to the Editor" yearly, as well as hundreds of "Other Voices" submissions, which are opinion columns penned by members of our community.

It's important to us that our readers and residents have a place to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas.

Up until a year ago, TheUnion.com provided a forum for public comment on our stories. We found that many of the comments inevitably strayed from the issues and due to the inordinate amount of time it took to monitor the feeds, we made a decision to temporarily remove the ability to comment until a better solution could be developed.

Since that time, our website has been reengineered with a fresh, new face lift, we rolled out a paid access requirement to read local stories produced by our newsroom, and yes, we have been working on a solution to add comments from our readers.

If you are a subscriber to The Union newspaper (print edition), you automatically receive free online access to all content on our website, including local stories.

I made a promise to bring back online comments on our stories. It's taken a little longer than originally anticipated; nonetheless, they're back (say that in your best Poltergeist voice).

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We really wanted to find a platform that would remove the anonymity of those writing comments and help provide more civil discourse. I think you'll discover a better and healthier environment to express your opinions. You'll need to have a Facebook account to participate in the conversation. If you try to comment without one, the system will quickly prompt you to set up a Facebook account. It's pretty simple.

So, the ability to comment is up and running again and we encourage you to engage in the conversations.

While I'm on the topic of TheUnion.com, allow me to expound for a moment. Judging from the questions I'm often asked, there has been some confusion about the local content on our website since the adoption of our paid access model. What better day to clear things up than April 1?

The first question I often get is, "How do I gain access to local stories?"

Here are the details, plain and simple: If you are a subscriber to The Union newspaper (print edition), you automatically receive free online access to all content on our website, including local stories. Also at no charge, you receive access to our e-edition and online archives. To read the paid access content on our website, you need to register and login when prompted.

If you are not a subscriber to The Union newspaper, you can purchase an "Unlimited Web" subscription for a little less than an "All Access" subscription. In addition, if you just want to purchase a single day pass, that's available to any and all readers for a buck!

I had received several calls and emails about problems some of you experienced with our day pass access. Rest assured, I've addressed them and I'm cautiously optimistic a tech guy somewhere has fixed it. Thanks for your patience.

Another common question, "What web site content is free to read and what content requires paid access?" Breaking news and information considered to be public service or in the interest of public safety are free. Stories submitted to us by the community or outside news services, they're free too. Features like classified ads, event calendars and weather, guess what, all free. The content that requires paid access are the stories we pay our news staff to write; our special investigative reports and local news. Now that I think about it, there's as much free than not.

To encourage you to "kick the tires" and see how it works, I'm offering another free 30-day trial of website access to all TheUnion.com content for non-subscribers. You'll need to sign up as a new subscriber to begin your free access. Once your free trail has expired, you will then be given the option to subscribe to "Unlimited Web" or to "All Access", which includes newspaper home delivery and full access to TheUnion.com.

Whether you're already a subscriber or sign up for a 30-day free trial, you'll be able to read all reader comments for each posted story by clicking on the Comments tab.

I trust that helps clear up most, if not all the confusion; and I do hope you will sign up and login to TheUnion.com, read local stories and reader comments online and perhaps join in a topical discussion.

You've only got until April 15 to take advantage of the free 30-day trial to the paid access content on our website. It won't cost you a thing to try it. I can't say the same about other things that deadline on April 15, which reminds me, I'd better get going on filing my taxes.

Dave Schmall is publisher at The Union. Contact him at dschmall@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4299..

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