The interaction of a newspaper and its readers is vitally important. Gone are the days when the only way a reader could express their opinion was to send in a letter to the editor. Today social media and the Web allow readers to vote on polls, leave comments, send links and have real-time communication with reporters in a way that can enhance the reporting.
A simple example might be earlier this month when a reader left a comment on Facebook that a headline was misleading. After further review, the headline was adjusted to offer more clarity. That same day a reader was able to express problems they were having navigating a section of our website and the issue was fixed within minutes. Some journalists don’t like that the wall between the newsroom and the reader is shrinking, but I think it has great advantages for the future of journalism, ranging from increased accountability to better customer service.
Last moth the commenting function on Piedmont Today was disabled. The simple reason was that moderating the comments was becoming too time consuming. Some days featured as many as 50 comments a day, which for a newsroom of two writers can be a major task. The decision was made to pull the plug on the comments and review the commenting guidelines. After some thought and research, the commenting function of Piedmont Today is back with additional guidelines. Will there still be issues? You bet, but hopefully these guidelines can communicate to readers what our intentions are and help them better understand why some comments make it and other do not.
When reviewing comments the following criteria will be addressed when considering deletion:
1) Comments should be on topic, meaning they relate to the subject of the article.
2) Comments should NOT be threatening, commercial in nature or derogatory towards others. It is okay to ask questions of others and to express your opinion, but keep in mind that the conversations on Piedmont Today, while passionate at times, should be constructive, civilized and respectful. We will error on the side of being too careful when it comes to deleting a comment.
3) Some stories will not have comments, such as those related to criminal activity, injuries, or other topics deemed too sensitive.
4) Comments will never be deleted based on ideology. All opinions are welcomed, but readers are asked to communicate their opinions in a way that meets our guidelines.
If you feel like a comment should be reconsidered please contact myself at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, a good rule of thumb is to pretend that all comments are taking place in person, which means readers should write what they would be willing to say to someone in person.