We recently received a message from a user of our website asking in rather colorful language why we don't allow comments on stories that involve race and crime. The answer is simple. We want comments on stories on our website to maintain a civil tone.
Here's what we post with every story: News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. News-Gazette.com reserves the right to remove any comment at its discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts.
It will be a year in February since we debuted our new website and started allowing comments on most stories that we post, where before we only rarely allowed comments. We also added a discussion forum to the website where people discuss all sorts of issues. One of the things we learned over the last year is that comments on stories that involve race and crime quickly deteriorate into personal attacks or hate speech. So we have decided not to allow comments on stories that contain those elements. On all other stories, we monitor comments to ensure they remain civil, and we remove comments that we think cross the line.
That said, we remove darned few comments. Over the last year, we have seen thousands of comments on stories, so we know that visitors to the site see it as a place where they can make their opinions known. Of those thousands of comments, we probably remove probably an average of fewer than two a week. One of our goals for the site was to encourage civil interaction with and among our readers, and I think readers understand.
We do monitor comments on stories, but we don't edit them for misspellings, inaccuracies and other problems, which are the responsibility of the commenters. Monitoring comments takes quite a commitment of time from our staff, particularly Online Editor Mike Howie, but we find it's necessary to maintain the standards we've set.