Citizens For A Better Norwood

Friday, January 18, 2008

Commenting policy - should we have one?

Back in August, 2006 when we started this blog, we decided to take a “wait and see” approach to whether or not we’d have a commenting policy. We decided what would guide us would be how often we’d have to step in and moderate. We hoped it would be rarely, and it has been. Here we are 520 blogs later, and we’ve moderated only 8-10 times. That’s a real tribute to our readers who have been overwhelmingly responsible in the remarks they’ve posted here. Thank you.

But don’t think we haven’t had some heated debates among ourselves about certain comments that made several of us cringe. More often than not, those were resolved on the side of not moderating. Along the way, a couple of readers emailed us about comments they felt were highly inappropriate. We agreed, and those were deleted.

The infrequency of problems isn’t the only reason we remain disinclined to having a commenting policy. We don’t want to spend our limited time, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, enforcing one. Recently, the Cincinnati Beacon instituted a commenting policy. We watched as their readers started complaining that it was not being evenly enforced and accusing the blog owners of making comments that violated their own policy! Those aren’t fights we’re interested in. We suspect our readers aren’t, either.

A commenting policy isn‘t our only option, though. Like the Cincinnati Beacon and many other blogs, we could preview comments before they’re published. But that doesn’t have appeal because it would be time consuming and would substantially slow down discussions.

Last week, the Daily Bellwether’s Bill Sloat wrote about his own conflict over comment moderation in a cautionary blog we recommend entitled “Ohio Blog Sued by School Principal: Toledo Lawsuit Tackles Anonymous Comments." Three of us put our names on our first blog on 8/2/06, and we have no desire to be sued over either our blog content or anonymous comments. We will continue to moderate in a way we will think will best protect all of us from litigation.

Our fundamental belief is that one of the best ways we can participate in making Norwood better is to provide an online place where citizens can share in a free flow of information and engage in open, productive dialogue. We hope this blog is a start in that direction. Some would argue that other websites like the Norwood Discussion Board fail, in part, because debates aren’t moderated and quickly degenerate into nothing but name calling sessions and worse. We have absolutely no interest in that model.

Maybe we should have a commenting policy, but we prefer to take things on the rare case by case basis. Here are examples of what we moderate: name calling; profanity (including 4-letter words that omit 1 or more of the letters); excessive speculation and innuendo in the absence of facts, especially when a specific individual is the topic; and comments that insult, demean, belittle other commenters.

We’ll be glad to answer any questions.