Thursday, December 1, 2016

More on the great Swarthmore debate

We revisited the Great Swarthmore Debate today.

That, of course, would be the conflagration of comments surrounding the proposal by the HEADstrong Foundation to use a home in the borough for a temporary residence for cancer patients and their families while they receive medical care in the area. I decided to follow up on the story for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, because no one seemed to be entirely happy with our coverage up to this point.

Those in favor of the HEADstrong plan thought a story earlier this week spent too much time focusing on the comments of neighbors who are opposing the move and asking borough council to block it. They also said the story unfairly besmirched what they say are the overwhelming majority of people in the borough who support the plan.

I heard from lawyers. I heard from state reps. All wanted to stress that there area a lot of people in Swarthmore who support HEADstrong and their mission.

I also heard from several of those neighbors who appeared before council last week to oppose the plan.

They believe they also have been unfairly characterized.

Make no mistake. they have legitimate concerns and make several valid points, including concerns about traffic and parking, let alone setting a precedent for similar potential uses of borough property.

Then there is the online and social media phenomenon.

It is now part and parcel of what we do.

There was a time when debate on such a topic would have been reserved for town meetings, water coolers and coffee klatches. Not anymore.

The story exploded both on our website and Facebook.

Today, every person with a phone, tablet or laptop is now a publisher, free to say whatever they wish, and often wearing the cloak of anonymity.

The neighbors who have raised concerns about the HEADstrong proposal believe they are being unfairly vilified by the online comments. Read through them and it's easy to see their point.

I hold some responsibility for that.

The comments on DelcoTimes.com as well as our Facebook page are largely unmonitored. You sign on and you can spill your guts. That very often can turn ugly pretty quickly.

When people register a complaint, I review the comments. Sometimes I delete them. Other times I realize a person simply disagreed with another's position. Those stay.

Yesterday I removed one post on our Facebook page that included a photo of one of the neighbors who is opposed to the HEADstrong use.

We should be careful in how we word this as well.

Obviously, none of these people is opposed to HEADstrong, and the marvelous work they do providing free room and board and other crucial services to families dealing with heart-wrenching cancer diagnoses. They just don't think it's the proper use for this particular house. You can read our follow-up story here.

And then no doubt post your comments as well.

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