This is a bummer and not just because it is more work for us. It also means we need to apply a lot of the same rules we would apply to a letter to the editor that we accept for print. With one important exception: people who post may remain anonymous. There is nothing to prevent someone from creating an account using a fake name. Moreover, we have no way to identify people who register anonymously, and absolutely no desire to do so.
But registration will enable us to review and approve comments before they are posted, and that is the big change.
A number of folks who decry the negativity of many anonymous comments have been asking me for over a year to make this change to our policy. I have resisted, perhaps idealistically imagining we would reap the reward of a livelier online community conversation.
In many respects, we have.
But, of course, many comments have been posted that violate the bounds of fairness and civility. My feeling has been that they are easy enough to ignore and that they really shouldn’t bother anyone. Guess I was wrong about that. Requiring registration may inspire people who wish to comment on a story to think twice before submitting one.
As for the standards we must now enforce before posting a comment: We won’t post something we know to be factually incorrect. We won’t post a comment if it contains a personal attack or is mean-spirited. And we will consider a comment’s news value. Comments that are irrelevant will probably not be posted.
There will probably be a lot fewer posts on the website. But the level of discussion will be higher. I didn’t want to assume this responsibility, but here we are.