Comment Moderation Policies for Newspapers

Minnesota Public Radio took a look at the comment moderation policies used at newspapers throughout the state of Minnesota and reported on the challenged faced by providing a forum for readers.

Policies ranged from not allowing comments on one extreme to allowing unmoderated comments at the other far extreme. Many fell somewhere in between in an attempt to provide a forum while avoiding a virtual mob scene.

One tactic used by some news sites has been requiring commenters to use their real names when posting comments. Personally, I think this goes a bit too far in most cases since it will likely limit comments from people who may have something valuable to say but won’t say it using their own name for various reasons. And one of the top reasons may be because they’re currently at work.

Additionally, people may have personal involvement in a story and wish to share some information withou becoming part of the story themselves.

The West Central Tribune seems to be thinking along the same line:

On the West Central Tribune Web site, readers are required to post some personal information, but it still affords them enough anonymity to write things that Boldan thinks they wouldn’t say in face-to-face conversation.

I think consistency is key to comment moderation. If people post under the same name – real name or not – they’ll build a voice within their newspaper’s online community. This voice builds credibility over time, making it harder for people to suddenly flip out about random issues. They could set up a separate username for times they want to be a jerk, but that could be moderated.

Do you need some moderation? Yes. The first level is just a matter of keeping spam off the site. Beyond that, it’s a matter of setting a tone for the conversation that’s taking place on your site. You, as the site owner get to decide how people are going to behave when they’re using your platform to communicate with others.

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