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Written by Jon Cooper

April 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

15 Responses

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  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

    Mr WordPress

    April 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

  2. Rewarding productive comment posters with tickets, personal blogs etc. sounds good. Positive reinforcement. Even knuckleheads and haters might tone down a bit for a chance at the right rewards.

    At The Morning Journal in Ohio we went to registration in an attempt to tame the flamers, but it had only limited success. The Simple Blog infrastructure makes it too easy to sign up with fake names and fake e-mail addresses and jump back in even after being banned for bad behavior.

    A better registration system that requires confirmation of a real name and real e-mail address to participate is much-needed right now.

    Tom Skoch

    April 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  3. I do not believe in registration, as I would personally never leave a comment on a site that required me to register first.

    I think encouraging the public to participate by reporting abuse is the way to go – after all, they are the ones running the sites as it is right now anyway. They should share the responsibility of monitoring abusive behavior.

    Through SimpleBlog, it’s pretty easy to sign in several times per day and just check the most recent comments across all stories. At The Middletown Press, we are thinking of having a time slot assigned to each person in the office to just check in and remove a few comments that may have become a problem.

    By removing inappropriate comments swiftly, and especially when someone has reported abuse, I believe we are showing the public that their efforts to help remove the comments are working and people might then step up and help monitoring the sites better.

    On another note, I think reporting abuse should be made easier. Why require an e-mail address to report abuse when there is none required to leave a comment? Maybe the report abuse button could also be made a little bigger or more prominent.

    Viktoria Sundqvist

    April 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

  4. I am influenced by a study entitled “Age, Wealth, Education Predict Letters to the Editor” ( We finally have a forum serving as a true town hall forum — ugly though it may get at times — and I would be cautious about changing it.

    Glenn Gilbert

    April 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

  5. A site that allows true discussion and exchange of ideas is a productive thing. After reading comments from some of the contributors that are at best sheer sensationalism and at worst simply nasty and bigoted, I feel that some kind of regulation is warranted. The minimum would be registering with proper ID although false names and e-mail addresses are easy to obtain. Perhaps validation with a phone number that would remain confidential might be the answer. It would be nice to get rid of the hate mongers and to allow the level of discourse to move up a notch or three.

    John Stanko

    April 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    • John,

      Would you be willing to use your cell number as part of the registration process? If it also provided you breaking news alerts as well?

      Thanks for the comment.
      Jonathan Cooper
      Director of Digital Content
      Journal Register Company


      April 5, 2010 at 7:28 pm

  6. A simple registration should be required. Posting mean, nasty, and inflammatory comments without identifying yourself is not free’s abuse of free speech. If you can not stand by your comments, don’t post them.

    Marshall Miles

    April 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

  7. I agree some moderation is needed, but I think the community, not those in the newsroom, need to be the moderators. While most of those ‘banned’ or deleted are obviously hateful, there are some that stay on the site and may be hurtful to family members or the community at large.
    Sure, a better registration process would be nice, but is there really one out there? It would take somebody all day (or week or month) to call or e-mail everybody who registers.
    A true discussion of stories can only come from the readers. Most of the time, when a hateful or (dare I say) racist comment is posted on a story, there are a large number of those who will automatically flag it as abuse.
    I believe most of those commenting truly want to add to the discussion and not hurt other people. Of course, I am proven wrong every other day.

    Vince Carey

    April 6, 2010 at 12:21 pm

  8. I like the idea of a multi-tiered commenting system, although I worry about how involved the staff would have to be in operating it.
    Mostly by accident, we have a decent cohort of commenters who are largely self-policing. We
    1. Require registration, but allow clearly bogus registrants to remain as long as they behave;
    2. Have unmoderated comments, but spend time looking at comments;
    3. Encourage people periodically to “mark as abuse” comments they think are out of line, and
    4. Quickly take down clearly abusive comments.
    When we first started, we were wide open and things started to get out of hand. We added the registration requirement and things quieted down.
    We also have some rules for turning off comments:
    1. Any story about a sexual assault gets comments turned off right out of the box.
    2. Stories about domestic violence usually get comments turned off right out of the box, as well. In both cases, commenters start blaming the victim.
    3. We also have to be prepared to shut down comments on the most unexpected stories. We once had to shut off comments on an obituary. It was an obit for an openly gay person, and a local preacher announced she had “gone straight to hell.” We blocked him and shut off comments. Sad. Another time, we turned off comments on a wedding announcement. One of the party’s previous relationships was causing trouble.
    But those are few and far between.

    Mark Ranzenberger

    April 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

  9. I have been in the office for a little over an hour and most of that time has been spent reading, deciphering and deleting nasty comments that came through my email as simpleblog requests.
    I find that the time I spend deleting comments isn’t always well spent, but necessary, and monitoriing the comments seems to be the only way to “reward” those who choose to comment constructively. It’s our call, in the end, regarding what’s OK and what’s not. Obviously other commenters’ reactions to certain things said guides us, but there are many times when I believe a person is simply entitled to his or her opinion and just because others don’t like it doesn’t make it inappropriate. but I, too, have shut off comments – at the behest of my editor – when they are simply cruel and unnecessary.
    What’s most interesting is to follow a thread of a commenter and see how they try to get their beliefs or reactions in on a conversation, even if it’s been blocked. What this means is that we as editors have to be even more vigilant and keep our ears to the ground, so to speak, so that we can keep them out.
    Is it fair to delete comments? I think so. We follow the sex assault/domestic violence rules on comments here at the Register Citizen and the Foothills Media Group, and sometimes on other topics, when people just get out of hand.
    All that being said, we spend a lot of time on it some days, when we could be doing other things, like writing, working with staff, etc. Story tips do make their way to the surface sometimes, but a lot of it is just people spewing hate and bigotry and cruelty. We’re responsible for that because WE set the system up. We have to monitor it because it’s part of our service to the communities. There’s just the time element that is a concern.

    emily m. olson

    April 6, 2010 at 3:25 pm

  10. I love the idea of having some kind of verified users for those people who genuinely want to take part in the discussion and are willing to provide their name instead of hiding behind a screen name. If a town politician wants to comment on a story, it would be great to know that’s really him or her. Setting up official accounts for local politicians and important community members on our end could encourage them to participate more in the discussion.

    All that said, there has to be some kind of anonymous way to post comments if for no other reason than to keep people on the site and continue to increase the site’s value for potential advertising. People like the anonymity too much. All we’re doing by requiring registration is making it annoying to comment, it doesn’t really make it anymore transparent. You can still go in, create an account with a fake name and an e-mail address you use for spam (I imagine most everyone has one, so I question how useful those we do collect by registration are) and post anonymously with some screen name. Why make people go to all that trouble if we’re not really solving any problem?

    We could delay the anonymous comments from showing up for a period to encourage readers to register. We could also allow registered commenters to create profiles and give them other benefits for registering.

    To combat the bad posters, I’m in favor of developing a method where the audience moderates itself — especially given the size of our editorial staffs. I’ve seen sites that let the users rate individual comments with a plus or minus sign, thumbs up or thumb down, etc. If a comment gets enough negative votes, it gets deactivated and either completely taken down or compacted with a message saying the comment was deemed inappropriate by readers.

    Matt Grisafi

    April 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm

  11. Personally, I can’t stand registration. I don’t know how many times I’ve left a site because of that.
    I think making it easier to get rid of the clearly nasty, hateful postings is a better way to go. I like the idea of a message saying the “comment was deemed inappropriate by readers”.
    Perhaps a lesson would be learned eventually.

    Leigh Bogle

    April 6, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  12. At The Mercury, we went to monitoring comments before posting as a way to keep out hate and horrible personal attacks. We were finding that people were afraid to comment because of the abuse that followed from other commenters. Although it is time consuming to review comments, it seems to be more effective than reacting to abuse as it’s reported. Key for us has been transparency and consistency. Online editor Eileen Faust wrote about the rationale to approving comments and often replies to commenters about questions they have. One of our rules is that commenters can’t attack other commenters, and on that one, the commenters “police” us if we’re not careful. Very few comments are denied before posting, but we also now have very few reports of commentabuse.
    I like the system of tiers discussed here, but wonder what level of discourse will end up in the lowest tier.

    Nancy March

    April 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  13. I agree with Viktoria: The easier for people to comment online and to report abuse, the better, even anonymously. Making it more difficult or less anonymous would turn people to other media outlets in this competitive market.

    More than 2,500 people (in this city of about 25,000) are registered to comment on The Saratogian site. All they have to do is put in a user name, a “real” name and an e-mail address, although many are clearly bogus. Still, there are lots of legitimate e-mail addresses for which we would like to find a constructive use.

    Monitoring and deleting abusive comments are annoying but necessary tasks that come with the territory. Web Editor Stephen Shoemaker looks through the SimpleBlog list for an overview of the comments to see what’s hot and what might need to be pulled, and readers moderate comments using the “report abuse” button.

    On the few occasions when commenting on a story is blocked (as we did last week when two criminal cases generated too many over-the-top potshots at the family), we tell readers on the Web site why the comments were blocked. I also wrote about it in my blog, which generated more conversation among anonymous readers both critical and supportive.

    Barbara Lombardo

    April 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  14. I like the idea of a thumbs up or thumbs down. It gives people more power over comments than they currently have.
    While I would like to think that our readers could moderate themselves, it’s already been proven to me that they can’t. One of the main reasons we went to moderation at The Mercury is that people tended to call or email rather than use the report abuse button, even when they were aware of it. Oddly, they didn’t mind telling me who they were on the phone, but didn’t want to put their emails into the report abuse message.
    I’ve actually found it easier to check comments every 15 minutes throughout the day rather than find out two days after a comment is posted that a 6-year-old rape victim’s name has been posted in a comment and she is being harassed. (It’s happened.)
    I do like the idea of having an account automatically created for officials. (We’ve had issues with government officials trying to influence the online community by spreading lies about other people on councils and school boards, which has led to our current policy of public officials being required to say who they are when they comment. This is only fair to our readers and the community those officials represent.)
    I do believe we should engage our community of readers which is why I eagerly respond to commenters.
    I think the biggest problem with comments is that people think, even when we allow them to go up immediately, that somehow we are to blame for a comment they don’t like or we are being unfair in what we take down. It doesn’t matter whether you moderate or open the floodgates, they’ll always blame us, never themselves. I think we should do what gives us the best representation as a responsible member of the community.
    Taking a comment down doesn’t negate the damage already done, which is my major concern. Someone can copy it, save the Web page on Magnolia and disseminate it in other ways online.
    I agree with Miles. There is free speech, then there is abuse of free speech and the anonymity we allow.
    As for flagging abusers, there are plenty of ways for banned commenters to get around the system. I’ve had my share of trolls and have had it happen too often.
    But maybe we can develop an in between sort of system where all comments go up automatically after 15 minutes of their creation, which would give us a lag time to look them over without having to actually approve each and every one.

    Eileen Faust

    April 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm

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