Online comments and the need for change

12/17/2014 3:51 PM |

Frequent readers of our websites may have noticed a recent change.

We have decided to alter our online commenting policy to allow posts only from readers using a Facebook login, a move that will decrease the number of anonymous comments made on our sites. 

This is a strategic decision that our editorial board has discussed on and off over the past several years. On one side of the argument, we have always valued a reader’s option to conceal his or her identity when commenting below our news stories. We believe that allowing this made many readers feel freer to share their opinions, making our websites a destination for frequent, lengthy discussions of local news topics. The flip side of anonymity, however, is that it can lower the level of discourse by providing a safe haven for verbally abusive bullies who are less interested in healthy debate than in picking fights with other commenters. Accountability was low and it seems that approach may have scared many readers away from sharing their thoughts.

It is clear from feedback we have received from our readers that — fair or unfair — many of you associate our style of journalism with the comments being left on our sites.

We decided that it is no longer in the best interest of our brand to allow such a loose form of commenting. While we recognize that switching to a Facebook plugin will not rid our site completely of anonymous comments, it should help reduce their number and make it easier for us to monitor discussions. It will also purge our websites of current comments while bringing our policy closer to the standard we have always used for letters to the editor in print.

We hope this change improves the quality of the conversation on our websites, thus enhancing the overall reader experience. We will continue to look at the discussions and evaluate the need for additional changes to our commenting policy. Readers interested in leaving anonymous tips and feedback on our stories can do so by using the “send us a tip” link at the top of our home page or emailing executive editor Grant Parpan at [email protected].

Thank you for your loyal readership.