By Jeff Tecklenburg
Yes, thegazette.com has changed the rules for online commenting again, as announced Sept. 2. For good reason.
Over the past few years, Gazette managers have revised the commenting process several times in hopes of encouraging a more civil, informed and broad-based online discussion.
Bottom line: Nothing we’ve tried has worked very well. But we’ll keep working on it.
As of Sept. 4, no more comments are allowed on news articles or opinion letters, editorials and guest columns. That doesn’t mean online commenting is gone. Instead, we have made major changes to give monitors more control.
We understand that not everyone is happy with the changes. We’re certainly not out to limit the free speech rights. We want to encourage healthy, open debate of ideas and public issues. Yet free speech also comes with some responsibility, yes, even online.
The former process that allowed unscreened comments to be posted 24-7 for many articles proved very difficult to manage. Without online administrators devoting enormous amounts of time trying to review every comment in a timely fashion, the threads came to be dominated by a relative handful of commenters. The content and tone of those threads often was personal and denigrating. Unfounded allegations and undocumented claims flew back and forth, often within minutes of a news or opinion article post.
Warnings and bans were issued. In the end, that system was unworkable and did not add value to our website.
There are still options to comment. We invite you to try them.
First, the Daily Conversations at the top of our home page. Each day, you’ll find new topics with background. Comments submitted will be prescreened before they’re approved for posting — or rejected. We’re looking for comments that add credible information to the discussion, offer solutions to problems or are entertaining without resorting to personal attacks. The rules of engagement that we previously used are still in effect. See http://thegazette.com/rules-of-engagement/
Individual Gazette sports, news and opinion bloggers have the option to keep comments open without automatic prescreening, but bloggers will moderate. That’s also true for the new reporter notebooks you can find under the topical news sections within the News link. Reporters aim to directly engage readers, answer questions and seek constructive feedback and suggestions.
I am among those ready to take your comments and questions.
Jeff Tecklenburg is Opinion Page editor for The Gazette. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org or (319) 398-8262.