The Bible says ‘be prepared to make a defense for what you believe.’ Illinois and Chicago politics say ‘be prepared to pay to play.’ Entirely different things, but somehow they seem to come together in this story…

If you have to pay to register your comments on an online story, will you be more civil? Intriguing question.

Comments on news stories are, in a sense, our new civic space, but minus all the social rules that generally govern face-to-face interactions between real human beings.

An idea that’s been gaining traction this year is that it’s the anonymity provided by the Internet that has turned many commenters into vicious jerks, so newspapers should require people to use their real names. Certainly Twitter has a much nicer tone, perhaps because all the nasty things people might say would be attached to their name and face.

Some media outlets are turning to the novel idea of accountability as a civilizing force when nothing else has the power to influence moderation.

A small paper based in Attleboro, Massachusetts near the state’s border with Rhode Island, has an idea. Henceforth, to comment at The Sun Chronicle you’ll need to pay 99 cents… with a credit card. And the name on your comments will be the name on your card.

Have a strong opinion? Want to enter the arena of ideas to express it, or just spout off? It’s inevitable that the leveling force of the interent would find a way to make you pay for it. Whether this was designed to capitalize on those who engage in intellectual discourse, or those who have never had an unexpressed thought…ideas have conseuences. And this is one way to prove it.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....