Online commenting to change tomorrow

About six weeks ago I asked the users of our website,, to do something radically different — to begin attaching their real names when commenting on stories.

Today, on the eve of switching to the new system, I am happy to say that your response has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations.

More than 600 people have gone through the simple verification process and are poised to start using the new commenting system tomorrow.

When I first announced the change, we privately told ourselves we would be happy to have 60 people signed up by Feb. 1. As you can see, 10 times that number have responded.

So, thank you for confirming, in more ways than one, that we are doing the right thing.

Many of us in the newsroom have made verification calls to readers and we have been touched and rewarded by the experience.

First, many of you told us that the change is long overdue, and that you too had been offended by the tone of anonymous commenting.

Moreover, many of you told us how much you enjoy the Sun Journal and, and how you rely upon it for community news.

We also enjoyed talking to the many local residents who are now living in other states. It was interesting to see how avidly they stay connected to the region through

We were also surprised how upbeat and supportive users are about the Sun Journal and Thank you for expressing that.

As I said in my original column, this is an unusual step for a newspaper website. Our industry seems to have settled for quantity of commenting over quality, trading meaningful expression for acrimonious banter.

Some in the industry have even predicted our experiment will fail and that people will no longer comment on our stories.

During this process, we also discovered more reasons why anonymous commenting is often harmful and unfair.

In one case recently, a young rape victim was identified by an anonymous commenter on a story. While this could be done even by a verified user, we hope it is now more unlikely to happen.

In another case, we found one user in the system who was using nine separate IDs while commenting.

Sometimes she deceptively used the multiple IDs to make it appear as if many people agreed with her opinions.

But the best reason to eliminate anonymous commenting is the simplest. When people stand behind their words, they have a greater stake in making sure they are thoughtful, civil and accurate.

We hope you will join that new conversation.

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.



 's picture


It is 6:40 in the evening, as the world settles in to rest after a long day, you can hear the crickets chirping in the tall grass. No longer are we disturbed by the sounds of machine gun fire and mortar shells exploding around us. Once in a while some young teens will set off a fire cracker or two, no harm is done, but mother is still startled. As I sit on the rocking chair on the front porch, I wonder if one of the neighbors will meander down the path to banter over politics or the events of the day. With the snipers gone, it is now safe to do so more freely. I believe I could learn to enjoy this.

Steve Bulger's picture


for incommunicado for a while. Other fish to fry.

For all who have departed, I will miss your viewpoints - concurring AND opposing. While a majority of those who have left held opinions similar to my own, I also will rue the loss of those who dissented. The reason? They all provoked thought on a given subject and caused self-examination of my principles. Sometimes the result was affirmation; other times it was modification. In either case, stimulation of the mind was the product...and THAT is always a good thing.

So to the departed: your newfound silence is deafening. To the remaining: I may now be in the minority, but I will not be timid. Let the games begin.

RONALD RIML's picture

You never were timid, Steve.....

I found it interesting that one of the departed had as many as eight alter-egos.

Actually, there is life AFTER forums. Another forum somewhere. Something like self-replicating viruses.

 's picture


As a paid subscriber to the Sun Journal, I appreciate being able to check a story online a times and especially the ability to quickly share an article with friends. I have written and had letters to the editor published with my name attached. I have provided information and opinion. I agree with the new policy to require the same online. Due to the good work of Ben Franklin and others, Silence Dogood would be able to sign his own name today. As a paying customer I approve of the change to encourage legitimate discussion. If nobody ever commented again online I would still be happy to have a good news report from good journalists such as Donna Perry and others.

New Format

I for one welcome the new format and will give my opinion
for what it's worth when appropriate. There's nothing better
than good honest discussions. I always manage to learn something!

RONALD RIML's picture

Pattie, Don't tell me - They're all gone now.......

 's picture



 's picture

Thanks Madeleine, may God

Thanks Madeleine, may God smile on you and send soft rain upon your fields. (only Douglas will relate) You must be bursting with pride about your son. I don't have children, but through fate, providence?, I helped put a neice and a nephew partially thru college, and one nephew completely thru college. Wow, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. But, it was more dimensional than that, as only a mom really could understand. It has been making them believe in a life for themselves, that in reality they can't see, can't feel, but can imagine. So, i sacrificed my own retirement, for their dream. Just like you sacrificed your beloved Maine for a better future for yours. It would make my heart ache to not be here. But after nine generations, I am the last, the younger ones left for better opportunity for a life, their own families, persuing their dreams. But, not here, which is heart breaking.
Anyway. It had to be terrible for LSJ to make this decision. I wonder how many meetings they had about it?
I probably disaagree with Mr Rhoades BEFORE he applies his fingers to his keyboard, but that doesn'tmean I am going to be vitrolic, and I will respect his right to say the things he says, as dumb as they are.....hahahahaha. Sorry Rex/
So, I'll keep posting, you keep reading. If you don't feel safe, you are not safe. Period.
Oh, and Scotty O, there were occasions that your comments made me fall off my chair howling in laughter. Get verified will ya?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Not the kind of expression of

Not the kind of expression of privacy that one would expect from a "trusted editor of the news room is it, Ben?

RONALD RIML's picture

Invasion of Piracy, er - Privacy.....

Outing one nickname for another??? You gotta be freakin' joshing me........

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I KNEW IT!!! I recognized his

I KNEW IT!!! I recognized his style, sez the parrot.

 's picture

Will still read

Will still read these comments as they are what makes this paper interesting, aside from the obits which I need to check regularly, when I have to read it online from FL for 9 months of the year. Doubt it will be so enticing henceforth! Have commented probably 2-3 times in all these years but still got "verified" just because I've always been a "law-obiding citizen" who does what I'm supposed to do. (I think they call us "SHEEP"!!) Probably won't post again because I don't need some nut who disagrees with me being up my nose/in my face/calling my house. I fear things will get very boring for us online readers despite Mr. Rhoades best efforts to be doing the right thing............ Good luck to all! You've been very interesting, to say the least! (But CandiceAnn...............NINE names?? OMG!!!! That is gross!)

Steve  Dosh's picture

Online commenting to change tomorrow

Kewlsie ? Monday 2 pm HST •
Don't get angry at a private business because they are doing what they want to do with their business , posters • Freedom of the press . It somewhat like the 2nd Amendment to the U S Constitution , only different ( read : Egypt )
i remain ,
Dr. Dosh, Pahoa HI 96778 U S A :)

 's picture

"As a matter of Principle"

"As a matter of Principle" was a great post John, nothing to add. I am gonna miss you, Ben, Madeleine, Barb. What a conondrum, civilty verses safety. Refraining from personal attacks and sticking to the issue being discussed, versus again, safety of people speaking here. Tough decision for LSJ, I guess we'll have to see if it was the right one. Maybe they can layer more security. It is a matter of perception, if some of the posters don't feel safe, then they are not safe. In the words of Angus, some statements are libelous.
Media guy, duly noted, Shawn too. In word craft it's always Emphasis, tone, intent. And where the words are placed in the article, and adjectives applied to them. That's why John's post was precient. I enjoy reading the LSJ, admittedly I have walked up to that line too.. out of exhasperation. (sp) fat fingers. There are some on ths thread I just skip and I don't read. There are some here that I want to hear from. It's too bad it came to this, but LSJ board are a pretty thoughtfull group maybe they can change it to suit those who want to remain anonymous and ensure more safety too. We'l see.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ben Harrison is hereby

Ben Harrison is hereby granted full pardon by the Court of Pirates..OOOPs ...He jumped anyway. Take care, Ben.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Lol...Pretty quick recovery,

Lol...Pretty quick recovery, John.

 's picture


I guess good points were made. SJ might have to pull towns off the list.
I comment beause I feel the media is not covering both sides of stories.

Jason Harris's picture

Although I am Inclined

to think shawn may be insane he is a lot closer to the truth then most would give him credit for, while i work for the media and we "share" with everyone, we area smaller presence in maine and dont always get taken seriously, plus the fact we deal with "spot" news storys mostly, check this out anyone hear about the accident on 95 northbound the other day with the 18 wheeler, did the SJ tell you that he was SLEEPING, i think it was something like " PHOTOS: Sleeping driver careens big rig off Turnpike" to be more accurate. what the photos didnt tell you was the DRIVER WAS NOT asleep, he told the state trooper he had been feeling sick lately, but he never went to sleep, i know because we were onscene 10 minutes after the crash and spoke with troopers onscene. SJ did go out ot the site much later in the day AFTER we told them it had happened, i got nothing against sharing info with the other outlets, but to say we cover up things is a bit brash shawn.

It is true that the media can be censored because corporate interests usually watch the lower guy, because we are a private company and financed by other then choking ads we tend to give you "both sides" more often.

Bravo to the sj for the incredible way they cover this region, its too bad more people dont open their eyes as you say, they walk around in a daze wondering what to think until WE feed them what to think, they could think for themselves, that is allowed right, it would require a new line of thinking though, and i think that somewhere along the way everyone just got too lazy.

Jason Harris's picture

Heres a Thought

From the mouth of a photojournalist (NOT SJ employed) who has been in the field for years, i see way to many accident, fire scenes where people who cant even get out and find a job run around in their PJS clogging up the scene for the authorities with THEIR opinion on the fact, heck some of them carry around a scanner in the car that cost more then a weeks worth of groceries (Can you buy scanners with food stamps, maybe...) and the truth is they KNOW NOTHING about the scene, they just clog it up when others are trying to get work done. How about the time when there was a huge fire on holland st, i waso n that scene and several people kept asking me if Sal Army was on scene with the canteen, i started wondering and although it cannot be verified it turns out that most likely some of these people had NOTHING to do with the fire they just came out to get a free meal, nice waste of the taxpayers money.

What i am getting at is as a paid "annoyance" as the fire and police often call us we are paid people to go to these scenes and get the info, we dont form opinions talking out our piehole, we form facts based on actual events, and for the most part (we journalists) this is a broad statement we try to print the facts, i dont photograph a mom holding her baby out the window then crop it so you cant see the firefighter below and say "look mom is hanging her baby out the window!" We report on the truth. The online commenting section is for people who niether have the authority nor the intelligence to get these things right.

Case in point # 1

When the woman that owned levers daycare was implicated with bad goings on and the drive by at her home did the SJ report she owned Levers, no they did not, but then all the loudmouths came in here and voiced it for us all to read, then people started pulling their kids out of the daycare because "suddenly" this was a bad place. The online commenting system reminds me of my father, he told me today "We are getting a foot of snow wedensday" and i asked him where he heard and he replys the radio, local forecasters in maine know about as much about maine weather as lepage knows about policy in maine (btw im not a republican or a dem, but lepages welfare "fix" intrigues me in a good way) the truth is they dont know, so people go around with their wipers up at night on their car and they huddle around their tvs with mindless eyes waiting for some smuck to TELL THEM what they need to believe (they could also look at the maps online and do the math themselves, but this would require timeaway from facebook and a lot of intellignece expended)

So yeah i get mad when people cowardly run and hide behind these systems, if you have something to say about that car wreck, fire, or political article be a man (or a woman) and stand up for what you believe in, this is AMERICA, and quit playing with the sissy guns, your only going to get it taken away from you by someone who knows how to use it on you, seriously folks i been reading trons posts for a long time now, do i agree with him, not often, but he is honest and would probably say EXACTLY what he said here to your face in public.

I leave it with this, if you want to run and hide behind a system that protects you your not ready to be a citizen and stand up for your beliefs, you just want to hid and be a nuisance, you dont belong here. People who want to fight should do so diplomatically but maybe that wont happen either.

All i have to say is im looking forward to the intelligent (i pray) conversations that will come after tommorrow, and even if they get heated maybe just maybe they will try to stay more on the topic (i went off on a rant)

My name is Jason Harris and i work for NCR Media out of Washington DC, i look forward to the conversation that we all know we can have!

Bravo SJ

Jason Harris's picture

well said even if it was a

well said even if it was a little puffed up, i wasnt looking for a rant, and if you look at the comments in the article you will see that YES someone did start to say they were pulling their kids out, yeah those people probably are not the best ones to run a daycare, and i have no doubt "you are watching"

But the truth is long after you choose to stay silent to "protect your safety" the conversation will continue!

It will just be carried on by people who not only are "taxpaying, law abiding citizen of the United states of America" but are also not afraid to stand up and put their name on it.

My mom works in a place in lisbon, a place that cares more about how many catalogs they make then the safety of their workers, its a god awful place, they put a survey and suggestion paper out , workers were told to sign their names, only 5 people put something down, two weeks later the same box appeared saying that they could keep their identities secret, the box had to be emptied twice in the same day,

truth be told if people want to remain cowardly then thats fine, if you believe in what your writing sign your name and quit bellyaching about some childhood nightmare made up about hordes of people hunting you down and lynching you

get over it, if not goodbye!

Jason Harris's picture


probably the reason you couldnt find our organization is because we are privately held, i dont even think we have a website, i know we have a facebook lol

As for credentials that is just letting you know who i am so people dont think i am trying to mislead them, nothing more nothing less inferred,

I think that SJ showing your name and city is not a bad thing, it means accountability, i doubt everyone is going to break out the chains and clubs and go beat you up if you say something you strongly believe in, As for confidentiality nothing is confidential i work IT and if i wanted to i could find anyones house just by finding their IP and tracing it to the NOC and then to the modem, heck if you know what your doing an "unverified" poster could be tracked right to their pc in their house, they arent asking much, just for people to be accountable to the beliefs they have without hiding behind the wall of unknown

I do see the point where people dont like this new system, i even seem to understand why, but alas it does not matter what they want, SJ has made the decision and you will either verify or hit the road

Sorry i was so quiet, SJ doesnt notify us with replys to a topic (might be a good idea in the future) and we are preparing for a ride along with public works for the storm coming along!

Link to our facebook, its not always updated and we by no means claim to know all that goes on!!/NCRMedia

Jim Cyr's picture

Mr. Rhoades

The verification is some what understandable, but the Private Information is that, PRIVATE. and you compromising that trust is NOT.

 's picture

i don't agree for safety

i don't agree for safety reasons. other than that i've used my name the whole time-just my initial for my last name. i'm quite appalled at this because our full last name has to be posted. i can see sj verifying personally but not share publicly. what were you thinking? i've been stalked before and i try to limit the amount of my personal information. posting full names are not going to prevent people from posting what they post. ahhh, backwards thinking community here on sj... here in maine even. i rarely come to sj's site because its a conglomeration of petty crap from people who are miserable about their life... many just can't state their opinion maturely-without hastiness and degrading... none of this is going to change. i put in for verification but will probably delete my account-i'll give it a shot but i am weary.

 's picture

even PD warns of limiting

even PD warns of limiting personal info shared.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Koalalover; making your phone

Koalalover; making your phone number public is not a requirement of the verification process. (Do you really think a pirate would be that stupid?) You provide your phone number to the SJ and only they have it on file. It is not made public. If they ever do make the phone numbers public, SJ will have big problems on their hands.

 's picture

pirate just very well may

pirate just very well may be... like showing the town where you live isn't just as bad? you gotta be kidding me.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

There is no privacy any more,

There is no privacy any more, Queen. Breaches abound everywhere. The information we provide the SJ and the ramifications thereof are the least of them, believe me.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Correct, Koalalover.....

Correct, Koalalover.....

 's picture

its shows full name and the

its shows full name and the town you live in. if you click on pirates you will see what will show-or another person's verification.

 's picture

lemme guess...

lemme guess... ummm-LEPAGE!!! lol! he is crazy you know lol.

GARY SAVARD's picture

I'm fine with the

I'm fine with the verification process and I also believe the comments will become a bit more civil, as they should be. It's one thing to disagree with a person's opinion, but in doing so there's no need to be obnoxious.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Go for it, F&H...Get the

Go for it, F&H...Get the green badge.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

..."and if someone took

..."and if someone took offense to my opinion would the SJ be ablt to stop them from personally taking it up with me?"...ConservaMom; that's what the 9mm is for. YOU guarantee your own protection and safety. It's the American way.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thank you, Ben...The parrot

Thank you, Ben...The parrot and I will miss you too. May your skies be blue and all your traffic lights green.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thank you for that,

Thank you for that, ConservaMom..
Frankly, I'm on the fence myself as to whether or not I'll continue to post, even though I'm Green. Most of the people whose comments I've enjoyed appear to be opting out. (Tron should not read too much into this post. He has not yet been liberated from the wrath of the Pirate.)

 's picture


Viva la parrot!!!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate lives and the

The Pirate lives and the parrot has never been better. Your pipe dream has not been fulfilled, T...En garde, mon ami!!!AARRGHH!!

GARY SAVARD's picture

I don't recall seeing any

I don't recall seeing any comments from fatandhappy that would fall in the crude category and my earlier post wasn't meant to lump all posters into a single profile. I just think that overall, the good points of the verification process will outweigh the bad. I could be wrong...we'll see.

 's picture

nine different ID's??

Holy Molly, she probably argued with herself!!

 's picture

My last comment

I would be scared to broadcast my real name. There are too many nuts out there, and all someone would have to do is google my name and the town I live in to find me. It is not worth it to me.

 's picture

drive through

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

 's picture


So after tomorrow, will our cumulative agrees and disagrees be reset? Why have the data if it has been Candiced?? :)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

AARRGHH!!!! You've tampered

AARRGHH!!!! You've tampered with enough things to cause the parrot to molt. We suggest you leave the agree/disgrees as they currently are and allow them to continue to accumulate as they've been doing.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

By the way, Pattie. I was led

By the way, Pattie. I was led to believe in a conversation you and I once had, that our user names, ie; Pirate, Tron, Veritas, would likely be allowed under the new rules provided that all verified individuals submitted to the SJ to the information they required. It is now evident that this will not be the case. Therefore, I seriously believe the Pirate will pack up his belongings, including the parrot, and go elsewhere for entertainment. Perhaps some place where the heavy hand of dictatorship is not wearing lead gloves.
For any who may say good riddance, the loss is yours; not mine, for you have given up your freedom.

 's picture


If I reported an inappropriate comment, should I expect to get at response and if so, how long should I expect it to take?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot sez they'd all

The parrot sez they'd all disagree if it were night time.

 's picture


I already don't see my record on my account. I enjoyed seeing my 750 some-odd disagrees!


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