Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in our constitution.

The freedom to have differing views and the freedom to express them are the foundation for that precious right. Therefore, we encourage Letters to the Editor.

We also relish seeing a host of comments on our online stories.

But, as with everything, there are limits, and last week we added a new one. Starting Feb. 19, we request all online commenters use their real names.

In recent months we’ve seen the discussion threads become unproductive or downright toxic. This change is about an attempt to cleanse the commenting culture.

We have had pushback, but we deem this a necessary step toward civility. 

We have also received many comments from people who simply would like to know the identity of the people who are criticizing them. Anonymity creates a lack of accountability. If it’s not something you feel you can say as yourself, it probably shouldn’t be said in the first place.

Others have commented that allowing anonymity leads to more divisive rhetoric and mean-spirited remarks. For instance, when it was reported that the two twin brothers who died did so after contracting COVID-19, people used a story about the tragic deaths of two members of the community to make snide observations.

We truly believe that, were they not anonymous, they would have not made those remarks on that story, if at all.

We aren’t trying to silence critics – we’ll still publish criticism of ourselves  and others unless it violates policy – we just believe people should stand behind their criticisms.

Because we and many other folks have the courage to sign our names to our opinions, we believe others should also.

Park County is still a place where people wave to one another and where it’s hard to walk through the grocery store without running into someone you know. Living in Cody is living somewhere where you’re known. The people you encounter are your friends and neighbors. Don’t hide behind anonymity. If you wouldn’t say it to their faces, don’t say it. 

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