For the past week and a half I’ve been moderating the online comments on the letters to the editor blog because our regular moderator has been on vacation.
I have to figure out how to make sure she never goes on vacation again. Moderating the comments is time-consuming and frustrating, but not for the reason you might think.
Sure we get a lot of “trolls,” commenters who apparently don’t have anything better to do than look for ways to be negative about anything and everything. But not everything they write should be deleted from the letters blog, even if their comments are reported by several other commenters.
My main headache has been all the challenges from people who just want a comment deleted because it’s a strong, sometimes ridiculous opinion that apparently they don’t share. “Ban this troll!” they plead.
Unless the person is calling another commenter names (“idiot” is the most common) or using obscene language, I’m inclined to let comments stand. I don’t care if a commenter calls the president a “socialist” or Mitt Romney a “fanatic.” They’re public figures, and I suspect they won’t be reading the News Tribune letters blog comments. But commenters shouldn’t be hurling invectives at each other. If I see that happening, I’ll delete ‘em.
I did notice one commenter who was getting reported a lot, and for good reason. I emailed him and asked him to be more civil. He said he would be, and so far he’s only had one comment reported. Sweet success!
I do think the level of discourse is pretty low in the letters comments. To address that, we’ll be going over to Facebook commenting in the near future. That apparently reduces the number of comments – it’s harder to be anonymous – but raises the quality of the conversation.
That can’t happen fast enough for me. In the meantime, please don’t report comments just because you find them annoying. It’s taking up a lot of my time, and it’s making me cranky.