New commenting rules draw overwhelming response

I announced Wednesday that we are changing one of the key rules for commenting on our website, sunjournal.com.

I can now report that while we have received criticism from some current commenters, the response to the new format has been overwhelmingly positive.

The new system, to begin Feb. 1, will require people commenting online to use their real names and home towns.

Previously, commenters have been allowed to use either their names or pseudonyms. Most commenters have chosen to be nameless.

The new rule corresponds to our requirements for letters to the editor and guest columns in the print newspaper.

Since Wednesday, 273 users have applied to become online commenters under the new system and 41 of those already have been verified and approved.

We were not expecting such a large response right off the bat, and our verification process takes some time.

So, if you have not been called, don't worry. We promise to eliminate the backlog by the time the program begins in February.

Online, the reaction from anonymous commenters has ranged from supportive to withering.

The people opposed to the change make some good points. They fear personal reprisals if they say something controversial and they predict the online discussion will be timid and less colorful.

However, for many years, letters to the editor writers have had their names and home towns go online after their letters appeared in the newspaper. We have done this hundreds and hundreds of times and we are not aware of any safety problems that have resulted.

We also understand that some of the commenting may not be as dramatic or entertaining after Feb. 1.

We hope instead that the comments are a bit more constructive and thought-provoking.

Perhaps we are bucking an inevitable trend toward more and more incivility in public discourse. And, perhaps, we are being unrealistic by trying to apply old ethical standards to a new electronic delivery system.

However, the Web is still a young, developing medium. Thousands of websites are trying new and different things every day.

This is also an experiment, an attempt to build a better online community with more illuminating discussion.

With your help, I think it will succeed.

(To register as an online commenter under the new system, please go to www.sunjournal.com and click the "Register" link at the top of the page.)

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Comments

 's picture

Don't the Sun Journal

Don't the Sun Journal advertising sales reps get paid on commission? Somethiing tells me they are not going to be very happy come the first of the year when they a) start knocking on doors and b) start getting calls from all those customers who have been getting all those calls, emails, and letters from all of us. Having customers so unhappy with who you advertise with, that they are calling you, writing you, and emailing you about it tends get you to move your advertising.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Congratulations

My hearty approval for the change in policy. I have been using my real name in comments all along, and for those who are scared, nothing bad ever happened to me or my family members as a result. I don't hesitate to express controversial opinions. The only people who attack me for it are the anonymous ones, and they do it on line. I'll be glad to see an end to the ugly, irresponsible comments and a switch to a responsible forum among people who stand behind their words.

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Not aware?

RR: ... we are not aware of any safety problems that have resulted.

Last March I notified you of exactly that. Here is your response:

On Mar 8, 2010, at 9:05 AM, Pattie Reaves wrote:

> I would suggest that you don't share comments in our community to which you would not want your name attached.

To which I responded:

Just over three months ago, my last published letter drew a similar cowardly, anonymous off-line response. In fact, stuff like this has happened often enough that my letter frequency is way down from previous years.

I don't mind having my name attached to an on-line comment and I'll debate it with anyone out in the light. But I don't have the resources to protect myself and my family from off-line threats and abuse from some in the community who operate only in the dark. There is accountability on one side only.

Forum anonymity encourages participation by people who might otherwise fear private retaliation from those who don't share the same public opinions. An obvious example is a whistleblower in a public position.

Exposing personal information encourages blandness and/or participation reduced down to the those who just don't care what happens on- or off-line.

Mark Wrenn's picture

aware

"those who just don't care what happens on- or off-line." Or, how 'bout those not ashamed to identify with their beliefs?

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

You didn't read my post, Lilly.

Nothing new there. I'm happy to identify with my beliefs - until the low-life, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers start playing games off-line.

Mark Wrenn's picture

Like Ben?

You mean like Ben, below?

Bob Stone's picture

Now, Please Dipense With the "Editorial Board" byline

As a poster who has been signing my posts for quite a while, I would suggest that the undefined "Editorial Board" now be eliminated and Sun-Journal opinion pieces now by signed by the person, or persons, authoring them.

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Huh?

Were you reading comments at http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/956149 ? You have a mighty low threshold of overwhelming.

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