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APME credibility roundtable on comments, part 1

APME credibility roundtable on comments, part 1

Published May 27, 2009

On May 19th, the News Sentinel hosted a roundtable discussion on the way it handles online comments on its Web site The session was one of a series of forums being sponsored nationally by the Associated Press Managing Editors. In this first of two videos, panelists share their reactions to online comments. Find a full list of panel participants and more information from News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy.

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Story Date Posted
Newspapers want readers' help with Web credibility Oct. 31, 2009

Video Credits

Name Credits
Lauren Spuhler Videographer and editor
Erin Chapin Videographer and editor

Comments » 2

lelandwykoff#487736 writes:

The old saying went, "freedom of the press is for anyone who owns a press."

Now everyone as good as owns a press. It is called the comment section. The video makes clear the Newspaper is confused by this innovation and new reality.

The editor wants to edit. The editor desires to be the gatekeeper of the community news and discussion. Comment sections emasculate the editors desire to "control" the news.

Time to move on.

Now, how to deal with comments. The News-Sentinel could begin by following and enforcing its own comment rules. Off topic comments should be removed. Defamatory, obscene, abusive, and threatening comments should be removed.

Designate anonymous posts such that they are given less weight in the comment threads--perhaps by placing them at the end of the line.

Leave everything else alone. You are no longer the gatekeeper, so get over it. Do not remove comments for political reasons, to favor advertisers, government friends, prominent local families, or businesses.

For an example of what not to do, see comment on in reference to your coverage of United Way (incidentally the host for your town hall meeting):

Your role is now as the animator, not gatekeeper, and certainly not as moderator. Animator. The vision, view, history, and "news" of the community will be developed by the community of readers.

As an animator you must use the blue editors pencil wisely. Encourage, and create a forum for lively discussion. Put bumpers around the discussion and see what develops.

Welcome to the exciting new world where anyone with a laptop and a wireless card enjoys freedom of the press!

Your new job description is Animator.

BayardDonahoo writes:

I totally agree with Rukeyser. When a person has to sign his or her name to a comment, there is no escaping direct linkage to its content.

Anonymity, on the other hand, allows the unstable, the deviant and the severely maladjusted a responsibility-free shooting gallery. It gives the deranged a license to rant, and drives away mature readers while lowering the News Sentinel to the level of a public restroom wall.

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