After intense editorial discussion, the Daily Gazette has decided to modify its comments policy. We have begun to worry that too many individuals are abusing our policy to write irrelevant and destructive posts.
Beginning next week, editors will review posted comments and delete those deemed irrelevant and destructive. To preserve the Gazette’s characteristic freewheeling style, comments will continue to be posted in real time, and unacceptable posts will be deleted as soon as members of the editorial board discover them. To preserve reader input, we will set up a system so that readers can suggest comments that ought to be deleted and protest comments they believe have been unfairly targeted.
While we feel this policy change is long overdue and is necessary for preserving the quality of dialogue fostered by our paper, we want our readers to know that we still consider uncensored reader input to be of fundamental importance to the Gazette. As such, we promise to use our privileges as editors prudently and sparingly.
When the current commenting policy was initiated, we decided to take the reigns out of the hands of the editors and put them squarely in the hands of the community. However, we don’t feel that the current system—which allows readers to “vote up” comments they prefer and “vote down” comments they disagree with—adequately addresses the problem posed by destructive and irrelevant comments. The merit of this community-based approach is that it gives readers a better idea of which comments people deem the most helpful. Under the current system, however, readers can continue to view destructive comments, which only serves to impede the development of reasoned dialogue and to deter columnists and reporters from writing anything controversial. In our guidelines, the Gazette clearly stipulates that people should only post constructive and relevant comments. The only change to the policy is that now these guidelines will be enforced.
We also do not pretend that there is always a clear distinction between a “relevant” and an “irrelevant” comment, or between a “strongly critical” comment and an “ad-hominem” attack. Whenever a comment is posted that delivers both insightful criticism and personal criticism, we will e-mail the author of the post and request that they remove the offending portions of his comment, so that the constructive aspects of their post may be preserved.
We think that this change will allow authors to write more freely, knowing that they don’t have to endure needless personal attacks. And we think some regulation will allow for a much better and more coherent dialogue, as serious commenters will not have to worry that irrelevant posts will interfere with debate.
Most of all though, we want to hear what our readers have to say. If you disagree with us, well, feel free to post an ad-hominem attack. You won’t be able to in a few days.
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