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Reader comments on the website

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WScribblySh, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. WScribblySh

    WScribblySh Member

    Curious as to other papers' policies on reader comments as they pertain to high school sports. Basic question: Does your site police harsh comments about players/teams more stringently because they're high schoolers?

    Here at the Scribbly Gazette, there are no rules especially for high school sports comments, and we occasionally get complaints from coaches and parents who feel criticizing a 14- to 18-year-old is uncalled for.

    In print, we've always taken the attitude that pro and college athletes are fair game. We treat high schoolers with more TLC. Reader comments don't reflect that, though.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. JakeandElwood

    JakeandElwood Well-Known Member

    I think anything on the web, with a byline or not, represents the paper so you should hold the comments to the same standard you hold something one of your writers puts out.
     
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Some lawyers would disagree. The thinking is that if you police the reader comments and edit them then you have taken responsibility for them and can be held liable for the content.

    If you just let them run as is and only delete posts that are flagged by other readers or violate the terms of agreement that you are on better legal footing.
     
  4. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    (Ace beat me to the punch)

    There is some problems with removing comments. I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but from my limited understanding, once you censor, you become liable for comments.

    If you leave comments, alone, then the paper can't be sued for libel.
     
  5. JakeandElwood

    JakeandElwood Well-Known Member

    Sigh. So leave a comment up and people say "oh look what it says on podunkpress.com" or start taking them down and you can be sued for something nobody on staff said or believed. What a crappy situation.
     
  6. pseudo

    pseudo Active Member

    And a good reason for not allowing them in the first place.
     
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    It is a crappy situation. And the comments will leave you wondering about just how stupid, gullible and mean people are.
     
  8. BigSleeper

    BigSleeper Active Member

    I've heard of instances where a paper went from a complete comment free-for-all to a system where visitors had to register, therefore being held more accountable, to post comments. Comments and site traffic plummeted after the change. There may have been other factors involved, but without the protection of anonymity, people seem less likely to comment.
     
  9. JakeandElwood

    JakeandElwood Well-Known Member

    My shop edits for things like profanity. Does that really legally make us culpable for the comments?
     
  10. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    No, because your user agreement presumably includes a clause about profanity. Selectively editing based on content, however, can present a legal problem.
     
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Need more info. Do you edit it in or out?
     
  12. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    We make users register before they make comments but that doesn't stop people from using fake names, fake addresses, other people's phone numbers and e-mail addresses that don't exist.

    What the others have said I can comfirm from example. I once did the (censored) thing on comments that had profanity in them (at our tiny paper, I was given police power, so to speak, because I'm one of the few not afraid of the Internet). Next day, our publisher told me that we either have to leave the comment alone or delete the entire comment for reasons mentioned earlier. However, I have the option to create my own post explaining why the comment was deleted and to tell the commenter that they can resumbmit a clean version.

    We also have a problem with one user who had it out for the principal of the high school. He would leave comments about the principal's alleged extramarital affair any story about the high school, even if it had nothing to do with the principal. His favorite target was my stories about the high school teams. We banned several of his accounts, all of which were created using false information (on one account, he listed his address as the same address of the high school). He finally realized we were going to keep banning him and eventually stopped.

    And although this is a sports-crazy town, particularly for its high school teams, sports stories on my site do not get a lot of comments. My theory on that is because most of the people who want to read the sports stories are subscribers to the print edition and have read the story there and don't feel a need to re-read it on the net.
     
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