I have to admit that I love reading comments on websites. When I'm reading stories or viewing content on gazette.com or other websites, I often read the comments and am intrigued by the diverse and sometimes provocative viewpoints. This is especially true about comments on issues facing our society.
I also have to admit that commenting exasperates me. The off-topic rants, insults, the personal attacks and fake accounts have all made for a Wild West atmosphere that lacks civil discourse and common courtesy. We at The Gazette also have found that these comments may be driving certain people from participating.
That's why I'm writing this column. First of all, The Gazette wants thoughtful and respectful commenting - the differing viewpoints that drive a community - to continue, and we want to allow you to comment on stories that interest you. Our commenting policy now allows named individuals to comment using Facebook on most stories. The exception would be for stories on local crimes or fatalities, and that came only after we saw some vicious and unfair attacks, especially on victims. We also reserve the right to limit commenting on our own brand, The Gazette and its ownership.
However, we can't allow commenting to reach a point that it has in recent months, especially in one case in which we recently banned a commenter because of personal threats on another. This is not civil discourse, but online bullying that cannot be tolerated.
So to supplement our commenting policy, we're instituting some basic rules that we hope all of our commenters will consider and not do:
- Threats, bullying or fake accounts: We will evaluate each individually but will consider banning anyone immediately if we find that any of these occurred.
- Name-calling, personal insults, four-letter words or what might be considered vulgar terms: These can be ones pointed at individuals or institutions. Upon notification or determination, we have and will take the comments down immediately and warn the commenter about the issue. If the same commenter does it two more times, we will consider preventing the violator from commenting for a period of time. For the print edition, we also will not print letters or comments that contain four-letter words, attacks, off-topic rants or vulgar terms.
- Individuals who hide behind an organizational name or place unwanted ads in the comments: We will advise them that they need to use their own names or warn them about the ads. However, if they continue, we will consider whether they will be allowed to continue commenting on gazette.com.
We understand that you have the freedom to comment on issues that affect you. I'm proud that this country grants such great freedoms to us, but, as a website, we also have the right to ask a violator to take their comments elsewhere to exercise those freedoms.
Again, we want your comments, criticisms, suggestions and, best of all, your solutions. We understand that you're sometimes upset, even outraged, when writing a comment or letter. Our daily lives and issues upset all of us at times.
So please comment on stories, photos, videos and other content. As you've done, let us know when we've slipped up so we can correct the mistake or discuss the issue to improve for the future.
Let us work together in this community so we can all comment on issues, sometimes disagreeing on solutions or positions, but all agreeing that we have the right to do it without personal attacks, vulgarity, bullying, threats or even off-topic rants. For those who are not commenting because of what has occurred in the past, I personally invite you back. We'll do everything possible to prevent bad behavior in the future.
Contact Joe Hight: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please help us in the community of commenting. If you see possible abuses or violations of the commenting policy, please send an email to email@example.com. We will look into the matter as soon as possible. Thank you.