The comments were posted, without prior screening, in order to make it as easy as possible for Journal readers to submit their input directly. Unfortunately, a handful of participants abused the system. While most comments were astute and relevant, some relentless individuals decided to turn the comments section into a chat room that ventured, frankly, into the realm of inappropriate, sophomoric idiocy.
The roots of The Mining Journal’s editorial ethical standards go back some 163 years. In order for a letter to the editor to be considered for publication in our print edition, a name and other verifiable information must be included. Not so, however, with the Internet comments. Subsequently, on our Web site a small but persistent group of people threatened to tarnish The Mining Journal’s reputation for responsible journalism. A few Web comment submissions even consisted of cowardly anonymous personal attacks on local citizens. That could not be allowed to continue.
The New Orleans online newspaper, nola.com, also has unmoderated comments. Alan Gutierrez notes what this does to the discussion, quoting Mayor Ray Nagin:
Your news cast and the local newspapers are feeding these awful, ugly talk shows, that are feeding these blogs. You go look at these some of these blogs out there and some of the stories that come from the paper and you read the comments, it’s the most vile angry people that I’ve ever seen in this community.
This is a common misconception in New Orleans, that the bloggers are the rabble. The city newspaper’s website, NOLA.com, is entirely unmoderated. NOLA.com calls these free-for-alls blogs.
Newspapers always run letters to the editor after verifying the identity of the writer. Should online newspapers be any different?