The Debate

One of the original blogs published on, The Debate was a place for intelligent and thoughtful discussion about the top issues of the day.

It was the first blog by a woman in Washington Post history.

And the first blog sole-authored by a woman at any top American newspaper.

Every week, we'd focus on a topic that was big in the news and I'd go in depth, with facts, context, and analysis, providing a basis for lively debate in the comments section. While, yes, I did have to delete a few comments for extreme grossness, most I let stand and mostly the debate was high quality. Insults were flung sometimes, but mostly it was a mutually respectful exchange with everyone aware of the norms of the forum -- which, as posted in response to some namecalling in a thread, I described as follows:

Knock it off! 

Ad hominem attacks have no place in what should be an intelligent, logical debate. (For those unfamiliar with basic Latin, the definition of ad hominem can be found here: )  

Flinging mindless insults only betrays the insulter's lack of solid reasoning. There are so many compelling arguments on both sides of this issue that there is really no excuse for resorting to verbal abuse of those who disagree with your position.  

If you don't have anything constructive to add to the Debate, please refrain from commenting. (In case I haven't been clear enough: name calling, gratuitous use of profanity, and suggesting various methods of self-fornication do NOT qualify as constructive.)  

Let's keep it civil, shall we? Many thanks.

Posted by: Emily Messner | Jan 4, 2006 12:51:26 P

And one of many cool things about the atmosphere we fostered was that when someone would dip into such attacks, or start throwing around partisan talking points or propaganda without anything back it up, other people in the community of Debaters would call them on it. That happened regularly -- the members of the community largely adhered to and enforced the standards that made the comments section a great place for thoughtful debates -- and here's one example (among many) that I particularly like:
(scroll to read through the comments)

WWFFD (The Debate, 3 Jan 2006) WWFFD: Another Perspective on Surveillance (The Debate, 3 Jan 2006) 32.8 MB