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Ethics of news site comments

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Ethics of news site comments

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News site comments have become a cesspool of hate and ignorance. Should we blame the commenters — or find more effective ways of engaging with our communities?

News site comments have become a cesspool of hate and ignorance. Should we blame the commenters — or find more effective ways of engaging with our communities?

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Ethics of news site comments

  1. 1. Don’t be a pr1ck Online comments and the challenge of community engagement
  2. 2. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob?
  3. 3. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob? • Idealistic hopes for news-site comments gave way to reality
  4. 4. Wisdom of the crowd? • Or the madness of the mob? • Idealistic hopes for news-site comments gave way to reality • How can we involve our readers in ways that are positive and useful?
  5. 5. Talking back to the Globe • The David Brudnoy rule
  6. 6. Talking back to the Globe • The David Brudnoy rule • Globe policy: Watch for “pr1ck” and libelous statements like “Carl Crawford is dealing drugs in the dugout.”
  7. 7. Talking back to the Globe • The David Brudnoy rule • Globe policy: Watch for “pr1ck” and libelous statements like “Carl Crawford is dealing drugs in the dugout.” • Comments turned off for personal tragedy, religion stories, etc.
  8. 8. The Winnipeg solution • Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members
  9. 9. The Winnipeg solution • Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members • In April 2011, the Globe contracted with ICUC of Winnipeg to stay on top of comments
  10. 10. The Winnipeg solution • Moderating comments is a soul-sucking experience, dreaded by Globe staff members • In April 2011, the Globe contracted with ICUC of Winnipeg to stay on top of comments • Better than nothing — but is outsourcing moderation any way to engage with your community?
  11. 11. The price of free speech • The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones
  12. 12. The price of free speech • The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones • “these shootings save the taxpayers millions … not only in welfare costs but in section 8, food stamps, health care. it is time to consider sterilization …”
  13. 13. The price of free speech • The Register puts comments up automatically and depends on the crowd to report offensive ones • “these shootings save the taxpayers millions … not only in welfare costs but in section 8, food stamps, health care. it is time to consider sterilization …” • In late 2011, under new leadership, the Register announced it would begin screening all comments
  14. 14. A better approach • All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.”
  15. 15. A better approach • All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.” • Anonymity is allowed, but racist, sexist and personally insulting comments are not posted
  16. 16. A better approach • All comments are screened before posting: “Yes we do censor reader comments. We’ll continue to.” • Anonymity is allowed, but racist, sexist and personally insulting comments are not posted • A civil conversation that often adds to the story and that fosters civic engagement — a virtuous circle
  17. 17. Anonymity versus real names • Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York
  18. 18. Anonymity versus real names • Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York • “It starts with basic news ethics: Readers have a right to know who is saying what.”
  19. 19. Anonymity versus real names • Howard Owens requires registration and real names at his community news site in western New York • “It starts with basic news ethics: Readers have a right to know who is saying what.” • What do you think is gained from a real-names policy? What is lost? Which is preferable?
  20. 20. Comments are so 2005 • Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space
  21. 21. Comments are so 2005 • Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space • Twitter allows reporters to promote work and engage with users
  22. 22. Comments are so 2005 • Facebook fosters civil dialogue in a familiar, real-names space • Twitter allows reporters to promote work and engage with users • Have traditional news- site comments outlived their usefulness?

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