Sun Journal changes rules for online commenting

Creating a bold, new

electronic community

Sun Journal changes rules

for making online comments

American illustrator Norman Rockwell painted what many consider his masterpiece during World War II, a series of magazine illustrations called "The Four Freedoms."

The first oil painting, titled “Freedom of Speech,” shows a man wearing a flannel shirt and a worn jacket standing among a group of seated adults.

He is addressing the group, his head held high and a folded copy of his town’s annual report in his jacket pocket.

It is a classic New England town meeting, the purest form of democracy, one man, one voice, one vote, citizens debating other citizens.

The obligation to stand behind your words has also been a core principle of journalism and this newspaper for many years.

The Sun Journal does not use unidentified sources in stories. When our readers write a column or letter to the editor for the newspaper they use their real names.

That, we believe, makes them accountable for what they say, plus it adds weight and credibility to their words.

But we have deviated from that principle for the Web, believing for several years that “online” was somehow different than “in print.” Nearly all newspapers have.

While we have known the identity of many people commenting on stories at, it was difficult or impossible for users to know. As a result, some comments have been factually incorrect, reckless and mean-spirited.

While the technology of the Web is very different, our core principles should remain the same.

Both our website and print newspaper are, in fact, like a town meeting or community gathering.

So, beginning Feb. 1 all online comments at will be accompanied by the real names of the people commenting. Only registered and verified users will be able to make comments. Anonymous comments will not be allowed.

All commenters, including subscribers and those registered now, will have to re-register under the new system.

Many newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News, are now taking steps to make Web commenting more responsible and accountable.

But our new system is the most ambitious effort we’ve seen to elevate the level of online discussion.

Plus, most of our current commenters seem to agree. In an online survey, 57 percent said they would prefer that real names accompany online comments.

The Sun Journal’s motto is “Connecting you with your community,” and for more than 160 years this newspaper has knit together Western Maine communities.

The advent of the Web has given us powerful new ways to connect people and allow anyone to become an active part of every discussion.

We know this decision will not please everyone. In time, however, we believe it will result in a better online experience for all.

What do you think of this story?

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Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



Rufus Ham's picture

Mystery Photo.B Plus. 12.11.11

Down Pully Wheel from the Historic Worumbo Mill of Lisbon Falls.
Wheel now located opposite of the Former Holy Family Church, corner of School St. and Rt.196.
Rufus Ham


So how do I do it?

Harold Hartley's picture

using real names on comments

I can see it now, some that doesn't like someone they know making a comment on a story turns around and starts making comment about that person to be mean or to ruin their life online. Whats to stop that from happening or someone trying to be someone else and makes personal attacks towards other to just to ruin the real persons life online.

There are lots of people like that because some can't get along or just plain hates the person.
Using real names just makes it possible to have others look up where they live or other things.
Just think about about all those that steal others ID or creates problems for others.
I'll have to see how the new system works out and check the paper to see if crimes against any commenters happens.

I have read in news sites about crimes against story commenters because they didn't like what was written.

Kevin Hanscombe's picture


Considering that for a long time I used my real name and now I dont I think I know exactly why I dont!

It is not fear and or the freedom of anonymity. The basic fact is the PAPER at least knows who I am and thats just fine for me..

L/A is a small area sort of speak and just like at a party or a family gathering I avoid topics like politics and what not that would do more harm then good... I chose to avoid offending and creating conflict with people I know.. I am rather just a polite person who just the same has an honest opinion.. And I felt that this atmosphere was a great place to discuss current topics and to have HEALTHY and HONEST debates whith out causing perminant damage to relationships..

I am not so sure that this would be the case anymore..

A much more in your face devisive atmosphere will this be where most of the good folks will now choose carefully before expressing their opinions..

Its a choice, I cant say I that I am extremely upset with the decision.. But I dont agree with the reasoning . :)

Martha Burnell's picture

Lunch with Rex.

Lunch with Rex, huh? LOL... pretty useless prize since I live 600 miles away. That may be one of the reasons I'm not quite so concerned about having my name known. That, and as Gil said, I'm well armed.

Martha Burnell's picture

not verified yet

I received the email about this. I followed the link and updated my infomation as requested. I then clicked the link to be verified. That was supposed to prompt a phone call from someone at the paper to verify my information. It has been several days and as yet, I've received no call. I sure hope we aren't going to get to the deadline and not be able to post because of some glitch in the newspaper's IT system. It also seems to me there was some blurb at the end of the email about some kind of drawing if updates were done quickly. Hopefully, I won't miss out on that either. Sure wish there would be some sort of response so I'd know if my efforts accomplished the intended outcome.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What's your phone number? The

What's your phone number? The parrot sez he'll call you and give you the full "skinny".


If you win the lunch with

If you win the lunch with Rex, make sure ahead of time who is supposed to pick up the tab.

Jerome Young's picture

As usual Gil makes a cogent

As usual Gil makes a cogent and well stated argument. I think the operative word is LSJ is not a public forum. I have enjoyed the opportunity to post here, not as cogently as Gil, but I think it a privaledge not a right offered by this paper. The threats (e-mailing advertisers) is probably why LSJ is implementing these rules, and is a little egocentric. If you ARE cincerned with your privacy or safety, then it is your right not to join or post. So don't join or post.

Jerome Young's picture

I rest my case. Why would I

I rest my case. Why would I want to keep LSJ or anyone else in check? I certainly hope they are making money, so they can stay in business. As far as for "making money OFF me?" I sincerely have never ever understood that euphamism. (sp) Gil made comments that, as usual, were really very true and cogent. Mr Harrison made an even more sense as I have seen this happen. The Ladies are concerned for their privacy and safety. So...start your own paper, or your own blog. Then you can make the rules. So don't join or post.

 's picture

Time to Start Making the List and Checking It Twice

Time to start on that list of Sun Journal Advertisers and getting out those emails, post cards, greeting cards, and letters letting them know we will no longer be seeing their ads in the Sun Journal or on the website. Time to Make that List and Check It Twice as that Jolly Old Elf would say. HOHOHO SJ, You have made sure our Christmas will not be so Merry and Bright but me thinks, it is your New Year that will be a whole lot less than happy.

Jerome Young's picture

Well Said Rex. It's about

Well Said Rex. It's about time. I applaud the new rules.

Ron Hubbard's picture

The Sun Journal...

The sun journal only wants people who agree with the crap they report as news to post...I for 1 have always had my name on my profile but I do not agree with making it mandatory.I will still post my dislike for this slum of a city...And if no one likes it to bad...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Sun Journal appears to

The Sun Journal appears to have abandoned the "loyal opposition" in favor of the constant whiners. Have it your way. Now all your forums will be full of people who agree with one another. Won't that be nice. Then we can all enjoy cookies and warm milk after the sun sets.


The constant whiners ..

.. haven't managed to find this discussion. Interesting. Perhaps they're just lurking, watching the fun, rubbing their hands in anticipation of the private playground they'll have in Feb. Of course, they'll tire of talking only to each other in about 30 seconds.

It's also interesting that the SJ dropped this blivet(+) around the same time that the FCC (Motto: We doan need no steenkin courts.) announced its unconstitutional power-grab of the internet. Both actions will yield similar results.

(+) 8 pounds of **** in a 4 pound bag

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great observation, Frosty. I

Great observation, Frosty. I sort of wondered around noontime where the whiners were. I think you called it pretty well; the playground's all theirs now. I suspect, though, that within a week to 10 days, they'll have bored each other to death or they'll be fighting among themselves. Ought to be a great party.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great post, Gil...we're with

Great post, Gil...we're with you, Bud.




PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thanks, of luck

Thanks, of luck to you.


Rex et al:

You can wrap it in the flag and Norman Rockwell and traditional values all you want, but what you're really trying to do is put a leash on the 6 or 8 idiots who spoil the place for everyone. I applaud that effort, but it's impossible without doing the same thing you want to eliminate - spoil it for everyone.

armymom just delivered an eloquent statement of the usual result of the law of unintended consequences. People will vote with their feet and their checkbooks and you'll be left trying to decide what else to drop from your paper to make up for the upcoming decline in readership. Anyone remember the printed TV book?

You have made your decision, and you have every right to do so. After all, your run a private enterprise, not some government social tinkering democracy. But I'm curious. Have the Costellos expressed an opinion on the matter?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Best wishes to you, Armymom.

Best wishes to you, Armymom. The Pirate may follow suit as well, and cancel everything out, including my subscription to the Journal. I'm sure, my carrier, who has just received a pretty good Christmas tip, will be happy to find out that he's lost another customer. The parrot sez he wants to continue posting on the site, but he can't type or spell for squat, so I don't think he'll last very long.
Good luck.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

LMAO....good stuff, Ben.

LMAO....good stuff, Ben.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

LOL....See below.

LOL....See below.


You mean you think he hasn't

You mean you think he hasn't already had ... Wait, mustn't take the chance of offending. Oh, well, I'll just post the kind of comment you'll be getting after 2/1: Can't we all just get along? Have a nice day! |-)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Nancy: You've just handed the

Nancy: You've just handed the parrot his moment of fame and glory. Do you have any idea how difficult that little sucker is going to be to live with for the next 2-3 weeks? He's apt to grow his feathers back. 0O:-)
Good post, though.

 's picture

Your comparison fails you

The Deep Throat analogy is flawed. Deep Throat was a confidential source; "confidential" means that he was still known to the reporter (Bob Woodward) who reported on the information acquired from Deep Throat (later in life known to be FBI Associate Director Mark Felt). Moreover, Deep Throat didn't write in the Washington Post; his information only made it into the paper after being filtered by the reporters. Confidential sources are indeed valuable to journalists, who fight doggedly to protect the identities of their sources. In turn, they are valuable to the public who is better informed as a consequence of the investigative journalism that confidential sources can enable. But there is some accountability for the confidential source, since the source is known to the journalist, who can attempt to corroborate claims made by the source and who can, as I suggested, filter out inflammatory statements that are of no informative value. The Sun Journal's new policy addresses a completely different matter: anonymous online comments. As I understand it, it is designed to prevent "factually incorrect, reckless and mean-spirited" comments from entering into the online discourse, as they now can and with little if any accountability for the poster. Perhaps some of you who are libertarian absolutists will object to that, but you are incorrect in suggesting that this policy change will jeopardize would-be whistleblowers. It won't. To be sure, if you want the Sun Journal to become a more robust source for investigative journalism, then perhaps you want to lobby them to amend their prohibition on unidentified sources in their reporting, but that's a different issue. This particular policy change will have no impact on any local Deep Throats, and so that argument is a red herring.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, Ben..good post

Well stated, Ben..good post

 's picture


SHAME ON THE SUNJOURNAL! If I want to criticize the PO-PO for their crummy seatbelt checkpoints, I should be able to do so without fear of retaliation. Shame. The current system was working just fine, with moderators deleting comments that went over the top.

Rex Rhoades's picture

Commenting rules

I want to thank everyone for the feedback on the new commenting rules, and I would like to add one observation on the safety issue. My name has appeared in newspapers for more than 35 years and online for about a dozen years. My real name. My address has also been in the local phone book for nearly all of that time. I have written columns, editorials and news stories, some of which no doubt angered some people. Yet, over all of those years, I have never had an angry person come to my home or try to hurt me. I do not believe this has happened to anyone on our staff, either. Thousands of people have written letters to the editor over the years, all bearing their real names. I am not aware of anyone ever having been injured by someone they offended. Among the risks we face in our lives, like driving a motor vehicle, felling a tree, swimming in a lake or climbing a ladder, the risk you are talking about here has to be statistically miniscule.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

We're not in Kansas anymore,

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If all of the above is true,

If all of the above is true, why such a big flap about name identity, then?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Bingo....well stated, Tired.

Bingo....well stated, Tired.

 's picture

Take it one-step further people...

You see all those advertisements on the edges of this page? those are the fine folks who sponsor this website, who make it all possible for the Sun-Journal to "knit together Western Maine communities."

Why not send a quick little email to these sponsors and let them know that as of February 1st, due to the Sun-Journals intent to distribute your personal information on their website, you will no longer be an active member of the Sun-Journal community.

Perhaps with a little persuasion by the almighty dollar the Sun-Journal will re-think their decision.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

They don't care, Angel. No

They don't care, Angel. No business gives a squat any more. I told my bank once that the only thing that kept me from changing banks was the knowledge that no one at my bank would give a damn. The response I got was, "When do you plan on making the change?"

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, Angel...the

Well stated, Angel...the parrot sez he's gonna miss ya.

Kaileigh Tara's picture

Commenting- Putting your name by your words online

Congratulations Sun Journal.
I have always put my name on any site I have registered for and if not allowed to than as much of it as allowed in the user name.
Sadly I could sometimes figure out who the author was by their old and tired tirade,the lies and fear they spread AND that never made the "comments a "discussion" or in any way constructive rather destructive.
I also participated in a live chat and was attacked by people hiding behind other names clearly lying with a political agenda- yet figured out who they were.
Stand by what you say. If it is factual- and you can prove it, what do you have to hide behind. If it is merely your opinion - than own it.
Only those who spew lies and attack with anger and hate and fear will fight this or oppose it. I am thrilled and now might find a discussion of current issues worth engaging in.
Thank you Sun Journal!!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

POW....right out of the park.

POW....right out of the park. Good post, KON...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You may have blown your

You may have blown your chance of lunch with Rex by that post, KON....0O:-)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Way to tell 'em, CM...

Way to tell 'em, CM...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

This is the first step

This is the first step towards phone calls of "heavy breathers" in the middle of the night, followed by anonymous letters in the mail.


Which is exactly why, months

Which is exactly why, months ago, I removed my real name from the account page and changed my screen name.

This policy will demand blandness in the name of civility. On 2/1 you'll be able to hear your echo in here. But it sure will be tolerant and diverse!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The sound of crickets in the

The sound of crickets in the background will be deafening. But then, many who frequent these blogs have the capacity to walk into and empty room and engage in spirited debate.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Wammmooo!!!. It finally came

Wammmooo!!!. It finally came to me,, was I slow on that one. Your 6:46 was really funny; good one.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I'm a little slow this

I'm a little slow this morning, NW, and you've lost me, but whatever it was, there is absolutely no need to apologize.

AL PELLETIER's picture

ID the writer

You go SJ. I've read so many stupid posts in the past 6 months written by idiots who write crap knowing they can publish anything without accountability it was beginning to destroy my desire to join in the discussion.
Al Pelletier Norway Maine

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

..."idiots who write

..."idiots who write crap"..
Way to go, Al. One week and 6 days and you're already into name calling. You'll fit right in with the whine set.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Yup, Crap

Get a job and a life, Al Pelletier

AL PELLETIER's picture

honest discussion

Every post I have read about my comments are honest and heart felt and I understand, but If your an American and you have the courage to say the words John Hancock, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson said ,and identified themselves in our Constitution under fear of execution , then the Sun Journal forum is kids play. Good night

AL PELLETIER's picture

time on line

Hi there Armymom, This is Al Pelletier telling you that I have been a contributer to Letters to the Editor for over 15 years. Some like what I write and others don't, but speaking my mind and telling you who these typing hands are connected to has never frightened me. I always try to keep my letters civil and have, on occasion, complimented the SJ staff for slapping my around when I get really mouthy. Please keep in mind, this web site belongs to
the Sun Journal as does their newspaper. If you want to jump in the playpen and play, you have to play by their rules or stay out.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ben Harrison, Fatandhappy,

Ben Harrison, Fatandhappy, Veritas, Momof4, Armymom, Northwoods, Old Bill, ScottyO, Gil, PublicWerks, et al.....It's been nice, guys. The Sun Journal seems to have subscribed to the government's approach to life...."IF IT AIN'T BROKE, FIX IT UNTIL IT'S BROKE".

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thanks for the kind words,

Thanks for the kind words, Armymom..As usual, your post is the equivalent of another bull's-eye. Spot on.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It's overkill at the highest

It's overkill at the highest level. I agree that people should be clearly and properly identified in their profiles with full (real) name and phone number, the phone number being accessible ONLY to SJ and staff. But, eliminating the usernames really sucks. Those are fun and hurt no one. Being a pirate is perfectly harmless as long as his comments are within the established guidelines. If properly registered, which is now mandatory, any poster has access to the Pirate's true identity if that is important to them, and, his phone number is protected, although the SJ knows it and has access to it. But, the new system is all one sided and suits only the Sun Journal. More importantly, what the hell am I going to do with this parrot who now thinks I'm gonna have to get rid him and replace him with a dog or cat? He's so upset that he's molted himself into total nakedness. Thanks a lot, SJ.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's not good, is it?

That's not good, is it?

GARY SAVARD's picture

Personally, I like the idea.

Personally, I like the idea. If someone wants to spew forth with insults and BS, then man up and be counted. Gary Savard.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

There was once a time

when people could speak their minds without getting all paranoid about somebody stalking them or their family members. It is a sad thing that the people in this forum are that paranoid.
We have liberals and conservatives, left and right wingers. republicans democrats libertarians and socialists, and everything in between in this forum and aside from some snide remarks about income sources and intelligence, there has never been a threat of physical violence that I've seen.
The way I see it, if you can say it here, you shouldn't be afraid of saying it publicly on a soapbox. If you can't say what you believe in while showing your face, you really don't believe in what you're saying.
I'm not afraid and those of you who have always used their real names here apparently aren't either. I applaud those of you who are still here after 2/01/11. Those of you who hide from Big Brother, if that's what you're afraid of,only make him stronger by hiding.


Oh Boy we could complain

Oh Boy we could complain about the city, state, police & goverment without fear of Retailation from them which is why so much more has been said about our goverment here as well as before the paper enacted the policy to remove anon letters to the editor, we all know how corrupted this area is as well as its history of corruption so if you write something bad about your police dept. expect to get a few tickets they will watch you like a hawk and they have the resources to do so, or maybe the public works 'OH WERE SORRY FOR PILING ALL THAT SNOW IN FRONT OF YOUR DRIVEWAY". Today we are afraid of goverments big hand and the sun journal has been a supporter of a lot of the corruption in the past and the rag will continue to due so. This is just another way for the system to control our speech, maybe they should take a history lesson and find that all democracy was ruted in anon complaints. This is a BAD DECISION on the part of the paper and hope they do allow freespeech and by the way what would have happened to deep throat if they knew thier real name had to be used, or a witness to gang murder you think they would risk thier lives and thier family if not for anonymous tagline.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good post, nailed

Good post, nailed it pretty well.

 's picture

Aaaaawwwwww Shiiiiii....

Bwahahaha to all those who hide behind their ID's to post nastiness. Congrats to the Sun Journal for a wise choice!


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