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Sei'taer
06-21-2010, 05:11 PM
Interesting, especially if you read the comments after the story. What do y'all think?

Margaret Sullivan: Seeking a return to civility in online comments (http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/06/20/1088283/seeking-a-return-to-civility-in.html)
By Margaret Sullivan
News Editor
Updated: June 20, 2010, 3:40 PM / 332 comments

Some editors were sitting in a news meeting one morning not long ago, bemoaning the often outrageous, intolerant and hateful online “comments” attached to stories on The News Web site, when News Business Editor Grove Potter uttered a simple but eloquent truth:

“Let’s face it,” he said. “We’ve created a class of anonymous flamethrowers.”

He’s right. We have. And shortly, we’re about to change that dramatically.

Online commenting began, a year or so ago, as a way to engage our Web readers and give them a chance to air their points of view and get some discussion going on the topics of the day.

Quickly, though, the practice degenerated into something significantly less lofty. Particularly on stories about inner-city crime — but not only on those stories — reader comments can be racist and ugly. In fact, we’ve been shocked at how seemingly routine stories can elicit comments that veer off into offensive territory.

One local reader, Bob Gallivan, wrote to me about it recently.

“What is intended to be an open forum for individuals’ thoughts and opinions is all too often the outlet for small-minded, omniphobic hatemongers, racists and just plain mean-spirited people,” he said.

Media organizations all over the country, particularly newspapers with active Web sites, are struggling with this subject. There’s no easy answer. The tension is between wanting to take advantage of the freewheeling expression of the Internet and wanting to keep standards of reasonable tolerance and decency on a public site.

After quite a bit of internal discussion, The News — in the next few weeks — will make a significant change. We will require commenters to give their real names and the names of their towns, which will appear with their comments, just as they do in printed “letters to the editor,” which have appeared daily for many years on the newspaper’s op-ed page.

It will mean that Web site readers must fill out an online form and include a phone number that we will use to help verify that they are who they say they are. It won’t be foolproof, and it will be somewhat labor-intensive for us, but we think it will raise the level of the discussion.

“We hope to raise the level of discourse by providing a measure of accountability,” said News Online Editor Brian Connolly.

The change arises, in part, after other methods have failed. The commenting was set up with certain restraints built in. One was self-policing — if a number of readers flagged a comment as unacceptable, it would be taken down. Another was monitoring by editors here, though the high volume of comments on dozens of stories a day made that impractical.

In some recent cases — for example, the celebrated Batavia arrest for adulterous sex on a picnic table — we’ve taken the more extreme measure of not offering commenting at all on stories that seemed most likely to descend into the gutter.

But, despite these precautions, trouble crept in anyway, like Peter Rabbit squeezing under the farmer’s fence. We have felt for some time that The News’ reputation for fairness and good taste was being damaged.

Clearly, it’s time to do something about it.

The changeover to the use of real names and locations will happen around Aug. 1. Before that, we’ll give our Web readers plenty of notice about how to comply with the new procedures.

The aim of publishing reader comments, all along, has been to have a free-flowing discussion of stimulating and worthwhile ideas — something of a virtual village square.

Now that people’s names will be attached to their ideas, we’re hoping that aim, finally, will be achieved.

editor@buffnews.com


My opinion? It's their site, they can pretty much do what they want to with it. I think it'll cut down on comments, but probably won't change the nasty comments much. The people who want to do that are going to figure out a way to remain anonymous or they aren't going to care.

Kurtz
06-21-2010, 05:17 PM
Keep your whorish beak out of our business you pox-ridden harlot.

Crispin's Crispian
06-21-2010, 07:18 PM
Interesting, especially if you read the comments after the story. What do y'all think?

My opinion? It's their site, they can pretty much do what they want to with it. I think it'll cut down on comments, but probably won't change the nasty comments much. The people who want to do that are going to figure out a way to remain anonymous or they aren't going to care.

I'd bet it will drastically reduce the number of comments, for a couple reasons. First, people are lazy and don't want to bother filling out a form just to comment on a news story. I suppose this means they will cull out everyone but the truly thoughtful. Second, there are people like me who, while also lazy, weigh privacy higher than voicing my opinion. I wouldn't sign up with a phone number just to comment on a news story.

But otherwise, I agree that the commenting on news stories is pretty ridiculous. It doesn't even matter what the story is, most of the time. What are particularly annoying are the comments about how this is censorship and how this makes the BuffaloNews communist. Is it any wonder the paper wants regulate this? ;)

tworiverswoman
06-21-2010, 07:27 PM
Frankly, I think it's an excellent idea. Most places already require some kind of "log-in" to leave comments, but all they usually require is an email address - and you can get one of those without needing any form of traceable identity from dozens of providers. All this does is bring the comment section of on-line publishers up to the level of "Letters to the Editor." No one has ever complained about THAT.

Trollers and flamers and scum-suckers that just like to "stir the pot" with hateful garbage add nothing whatever to any serious discussion and usually derail every topic as soon as they post. "Free Speech" doesn't mean you gotta provide them with a podium and a microphone. And I sometimes wonder how the original intent, which I believe was to prevent muzzling of POLITICAL freedom to speak out against the government, got perverted into "I have the right to say any damn thing I please, so go F__k yourself."

I read the comments left on most on-line articles I find interesting, and my belief in the general sensibility of my fellow citizens has been pretty well tossed out the window over the last few years. It's amazing how many Cuisine Challenged Bridge Substructure Symbionts (http://picayune.uclick.com/comics/pib/2002/pib021218.gif) there are out there.

Kurtz
06-21-2010, 07:39 PM
They should really disallow any comments. The general public http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b137/giggsy2/iconuhohc9gk.gif

Ivhon
06-21-2010, 07:50 PM
Frankly, I think it's an excellent idea. Most places already require some kind of "log-in" to leave comments, but all they usually require is an email address - and you can get one of those without needing any form of traceable identity from dozens of providers. All this does is bring the comment section of on-line publishers up to the level of "Letters to the Editor." No one has ever complained about THAT.

Trollers and flamers and scum-suckers that just like to "stir the pot" with hateful garbage add nothing whatever to any serious discussion and usually derail every topic as soon as they post. "Free Speech" doesn't mean you gotta provide them with a podium and a microphone. And I sometimes wonder how the original intent, which I believe was to prevent muzzling of POLITICAL freedom to speak out against the government, got perverted into "I have the right to say any damn thing I please, so go F__k yourself."

I read the comments left on most on-line articles I find interesting, and my belief in the general sensibility of my fellow citizens has been pretty well tossed out the window over the last few years. It's amazing how many Cuisine Challenged Bridge Substructure Symbionts (http://picayune.uclick.com/comics/pib/2002/pib021218.gif) there are out there.

Because we live in an idiocracy where people can't be bothered to read the Constitution that they swear by and instead allow themselves to be manipulated by any talking head that can stir up their angst and ire.

DahLliA
06-21-2010, 07:52 PM
http://art.penny-arcade.com/photos/215499488_8pSZr-L-2.jpg

Sinistrum
06-21-2010, 08:40 PM
Its because people have forgotten that free speech is a double edged sword. Sure you have the right to say whatever you want. The flipside is that other people have the right to free speech which means they have the right to ignore you or call you an idiot in response to what you say. The newspaper is just doing the former in making it harder to comment.

Sei'taer
06-22-2010, 09:06 AM
I don't mind people knowing who I am. I call my senator and congressman, give them my name and ream them. I have written to the paper and given them my name. If I got something to say, and it needs to be said, then I'm saying it...even if all it does is get discussion going and I am later proven worng, at least it got people thinking.

Davian93
06-22-2010, 09:13 AM
There's alot of stupid people out there. Unfortunately, most of them now have internet access and nothing but free time to comment on stories on news sites.