We usually enjoy getting reader comments on the letters to the editor and Inside Opinion blogs. Many of those comments are insightful, cogent, pithy and humorous. Sometimes we are alerted to mistakes or more information we might want to take into account.
But all too many comments – particularly those made anonymously – are cruel, off-topic and sometimes downright obscene. They tend to discourage commenters who are interested in a civil conversation, and we’ve heard from readers that they no longer submit letters because of the nasty comments that inevitably are posted.
To address the problem, we’ve switched to Facebook commenting. You now use your Facebook account to post comments online at blogs.thenewstribune.com/letters (the letters blog) and blogs.thenewstribune.com/opinion (the Inside Opinion blog). Readers also can share their comment with their Facebook friends by checking a “post to Facebook” box below the comment field.
Editor Karen Peterson wrote a column in July explaining the reasons for the switch, which took place earlier in other sections of the paper. Here’s some of what she wrote:
We tried posting rules of civility. We allowed readers to block offensive comments and send them into a holding file for review by our editors. We block people who repeatedly violate our rules. And we sometimes turn off comments on stories we know will invite trouble – often those about crime or race or sexual orientation.
“But refereeing those disputes takes hours away from our core mission – bringing you more stories about our community. So we decided to see what would happen if we required people to use their real names. While not a perfect system, Facebook helps us do that by weeding out pseudonyms and encouraging people to post their pictures.”
She reports that the Facebook commenting system has been having the desired results, and we’re hoping it will raise the level of civility in our blogs, too.
If you have any questions or comments on this change, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.