Flipping through the TV channels this morning, I came upon an interview with an elderly gentleman with intelligent eyes who voiced his concern about the decline of mutually respectful civil discourse. He was a retired editor of a major newspaper. He joked about the waning influence of the printed word and said that an appropriate question a journalism grad seeking a job at a newspaper and an editor might ask each other might be "What are we doing here"?However, as newspapers decline in readership, there is another decline that bothered the former editor even more: a crude and generally ignorant tone that characterizes many comments on the editorial pages. Scurrilous and unsubstantiated accusations have become more and more common there. The man's words brought me back in time to when one of our grade school assignments was to read the editorial pages to familiarize ourselves with intelligent argument. I remember discovering Sydney Harris's column there and becoming one of his regular readers, his wit and style drawing me in. Come to think of it, I recall that when I was in high school I sent a letter to the editor of the Chicago Daily News and it was published. In those days you did not have to have your name published, and I doubt I would have sent the letter in if I had thought my identity would be revealed. Yet scurrilous and unsubstantiated commentary was pretty much nonexistent.When the former editor spoke of his editorial pages of yore, it was with great pride. He felt quite sure that it was the Internet that was and is responsible for the decline of civil discourse we see in print and all around us. Maybe the elderly gentleman with the intelligent eyes has a point. What do you think?