There’s a new discussion board in town and it seems to be gaining a loyal following.

The new site, www.hotchatter.net, joins the McAlester Watercooler, www.mccooler.net, as the latest outlet for McAlester residents to sound off on the issues of the day.

What a great thing: We all have opinions and having outlets for them is the heart of our democracy.

When the Watercooler first came online, I said it was a good thing for McAlester. The same holds true for hotchatter.net. Talking about the issues we face — even if we don’t always agree with one another — can only help. It is through honest debate that solutions to problems are found.

Like the Watercooler, hotchatter.net is fast becoming a place for free-wheeling discussions of all the hot topics making the rounds at coffee shops, meetings and other places where folks discuss what’s happening in McAlester.

Jamie Benson is the Web site’s administrator, and, despite some unduly harsh comments about her motives, she is living up to her promise to provide an alternate place for concerned people to speak out. She should be commended, not condemned.

Both of these discussion Web sites are a reflection of a growing trend in America. People are bypassing established media organizations and taking their ideas directly to the public. That’s uncomfortable for some in the media, but there is no real need for concern.

As advocates for freedom of speech, newspapers and other media outlets should welcome Web sites like hotchatter.net and mccooler.net.

A diverse and free discussion of issues and ideas is a sacred right of Americans, and no matter the outlet, ideas are what shape our democracy.

Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once said, “Under our Constitution men are punished for what they do or fail to do and and not for what they think and believe.”

There are some things posted on hotchatter.net and mccooler.net about me and they jab fairly deep, but that’s OK.

Even with a few slings and arrows tossed my way, I believe these local discussion boards are one of the best things to happen in McAlester in a very long time.

Keep the arrows flying, it is always a good thing to face questions about why something ends up in print.

There’s no monopoly on wisdom in our newsroom and we welcome challenges to what we rport. The discussion boards have been a great place to see what at least some people think of the job we do.

Keep posting, whether you’re a mccooler.net user or hotchatter.net user — your ideas are vital to a strong democracy.

For all of you visiting hotchatter.net, welcome to the great arena of ideas. Along with mccooler.net, you’re blazing new trails in the dissemination of ideas here in McAlester. What a wonderful thing that is.



Matt Lane is the editor of the McAlester News-Capital. Send him hate mail or encouragement to: Editor, P.O. Box 987, McAlester, OK, 74501. Call him at 421-2022 or send e-mail to editor@mcalesternews.com. You can also post messages on the McAlester News-Capital’s moderated discussion board by visiting www.mcalesternews.com.