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Please be respectful with Web commentsPosted Friday, August 29, 2008, at 2:52 PM
Call it a sign of the times.
We are in an instant news around-the-clock world where news Web sites like the one this newspaper maintains -- www.gcdailyworld.com -- keep our readers abreast of the breaking news as it happens.
We want our news coverage to be timely, accurate and responsible.
With this changing news culture comes new challenges and ideas.
News organizations are increasingly looking for ways to connect with readers and get them to invest in the news of the day, either in print or online.
To that end, news outlets update Web sites with breaking stories, and some -- like www.gcdailyworld.com -- go as far as placing links at the bottom of stories that invite public comment.
We appreciate the fact that our daily pageviews and number of unique visitors continues grow as more and more Greene Countians and those with Greene County ties are turning to our Web site as their No. 1 source for local news.
We believe reader's comments have in part driven this increase in numbers.
One challenge that is being experienced by our staff and similarly by other newspaper Web sites across the nation is how to monitor the scores of comments made by our loyal readers to stories that are posted on our Web site each day.
We have to ensure each and every comment is fair, accurate, legal and ethical.
This reader comment feature offered by www.gcdailyworld.com is unique and exclusive for Greene County.
We know it's being utilized by our readers in increasing numbers because we see the comments coming in by the dozens every day.
Newspapers have traditionally offered a forum on their editorial pages to accept letters to the editors. This newspaper has also offered to our readers a periodic feature called Sound Off where they can anonymously talk on our editorial page about any concern they might have.
A Web site allowing its readers to comment on stories is just the next generation of that.
Readers are empowered to comment on a story by filling out a simple form to register with the newspaper's Web site.
I've talked with other editors in our company and with other newspaper staff members throughout the state. All are wondering how to best deal with the reader comments.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Washington D.C.-based Project for Excellence in Journalism, says story comments spark community debate.
"I think that's utterly in keeping with the larger purpose of journalism, which is to inspire debate," he said in a story published on the Internet. "But even people on the cutting edge of this new culture are struggling with how far they can extend that kind of open mike."
To that end, many Web sites have pulled the plug on their Web site comments because the monitoring process was simply too laborious for the staffs.
We've also had some problems in our monitoring and are experiencing some growing pains with the reader comments to our stories.
We are learning each day and I can safely say there are far more comments that are allowed to stand than are deleted.
Yes, some comments have been deleted and some comment posters, who constantly violate the stated terms of service, have been banned from our Web site.
We regret doing it, but we have to insure that the rules are followed.
Monitoring of all comments will continue.
Readers have to remember that posting on our Web site is a privilege and not a inherent or constitutionally guaranteed right.
It has nothing to do with infringing your freedom of your speech if we decide your comment is unacceptable for our Web site.
Just like letters to the editor, Web site comments are at the discretion of our editors. They have to meet outlined specifications -- which are clearly written in the "Terms of Service" section at the bottom of our Web site.
We ask our readers not to post obscene, profane, sexually explicit, libelous, slanderous, defamatory, harmful, threatening, illegal or knowingly false information. Also, please do not post blatant expressions of bigotry, racism or hate, material encouraging conduct that may constitute or contribute to a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or violate any national, state or local law, regulation or authority, or any other material which our staff finds objectionable.
In addition, do not use the comment section for any unlawful purposes; do not impersonate another person when you post; do not allow any other person or entity to use your identification to post; and do not post material that infringes on the copyright or other intellectual property rights of others or the privacy and publicity rights of others.
In closing, we encourage our readers to continue to comment responsibly. Your opinion does matter to us.
We simply ask everyone to be respectful in their comments. Please stay on topic and remember posting a comment on our Web site is a privilege.
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