Online story comments are moving off our newspaper websites and going to topics.AreaVoices.com, a website also owned by parent company Forum Communications.
This is being done for several reasons:
- First, we are an information provider. While we value and believe in the arena of public debate, we don’t feel our audience that seeks information must be exposed to public opinions unless they want that.
Our current system gives the information seeker few options in that regard, as the public’s comments run directly below the stories.
- Second, comments left on online stories are often uninformed, offensive and even downright mean.
Much of this is because there is no way to verify the true identity of online commenters.
Topics.AreaVoices.com has been upgraded with more social networking tools that more closely tie together a person’s online identity with their comments.
- Third, the new tools on Topics.AreaVoices.com also allow the online community to better police itself through the rating of comments. Comments that are repeatedly deemed offensive or useless by a majority of the community will be downgraded or hidden.
This should help elevate the level of discourse.
- Fourth, the new system will allow comments to appear in real time, speeding up the discussion.
Currently, comments go into a holding area until they can be viewed and approved by newsroom staff. This slows down the talk, especially at times we’re lightly staffed or really busy with other, more important matters.
The new system will have a way to report perceived violations of decorum. We’ll address those reports, but only after the comment is public.
If we have routine violators, we’ll remove their access to the site.
The commenting commandments follow:
- Keep it civil and stay on topic.
- No profanity, vulgarity or racial slurs.
- No harassing others.
In the beginning of this changeover, the newsroom will determine which stories people can comment on. An area on your local newspaper’s web site will contain those story headlines and, when clicked on, take commenters to the Topics.AreaVoices.com platform.
Oh, and don’t harass the moderators.