AP NEWS

We’re changing our policy on online comments

August 11, 2018

We want your voice to be a part of our community.

Every day, we deliver news and information about the communities we serve. Sometimes a story or an editorial might spur action, such as a recent editorial in which we urged Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom to convene leaders and administrators to begin a discussion about their budget issues and then he did just that. Sometimes what we write may shift your opinion on a particular issue or a public figure or simply open up your thinking to new possibilities. We know our journalism can sometimes make you smile, like the recent Sailfest community photos, and sometimes we can make you angry — most often I hear this sentiment directly regarding opinion columns. And sometimes you want to talk about and comment about our stories.

Traditionally our readers join our community conversations by writing a letter to the editor. We receive about 40 per week and publish about 1,500 annually. The editorial page, under the purview of Paul Choiniere, our editorial page editor, operates independently from our newsroom and is separated from its day-to-day work with his office a floor above the news staffers, and just down the hall from me.

In addition to letters to the editor, we are getting more and more of our paying members sharing their opinions online by commenting directly on stories. Our commenting system is open only to our paying members, as we believe adding your voice to our community conversation is a benefit of being a subscriber. We tend to get about 250 comments a day from these readers.

Comments are one of our many listening posts to hear what people in our community are saying and what they are thinking. Most of the time the comments are quite interesting, and sometimes, well, let’s just say there is disappointment in how an intelligent conversation can quickly devolve or be diverted onto a lesser topic.

We have always required that writers of letters to the editor be identified and we do verify each letter, but for years now we have had anonymous comments on the stories on our website. We’ve had serious conversations for a while about whether it is fair to require readers to identify themselves if they submit a letter but allow them to remain anonymous if they comment on our site. In effect, we have created a divide in our commenting community and we want to change that. With this in mind, we will be making a change to our commenting system effective Sept. 12.

Starting then, anyone who wants to comment on a story on our website and be a part of the community conversation will be identified — comments no longer will be anonymous. To comment on a story you must be a registered user on our site and be a subscriber. When you comment on a story, you will be identified by your real name. This change only applies to comments going forward from Sept. 12 — all archived comments will remain anonymous with the names or handles provided at the time those comments originally were posted.

We will continue to moderate comments, and users still will be able to flag bad behavior. Personal attacks and name calling will not be allowed. Profanity, libel and abuse are not allowed. Please take a minute to review our commenting policy, a part of our privacy policy, which can be found here: bit.ly/DayPolicy.

Comments are a vital part of our website. They are a part of the fabric of our electronic town square filled with ideas and opinions of every kind. With this change, we hope comments will become more like our letters to the editor: smart, contentious, civil and responsible, and signed with real names so we all know who is doing the talking.

As a part of this change, we also now will allow online commenting on our letters to the editor. Up to now, we have prevented commenting on letters, feeling it unfair for an identified letter writer to face blowback from an anonymous critic. With everyone now identified, we can have a fair and free debate of the issues.

We believe requiring people to use their real names may lessen the polarization in our community and encourage people to have real discussions of their differences without resorting to name calling and belittling.

These changes are an opportunity to get engaged with an ongoing story or a news event, and we want to include you in the conversation. We want to add your voice to the mix and make your voice a part of our community. We hope to encourage quality conversations and engage you to help us further our mission of identifying and amplifying solutions to our community’s problems so together we can make this a better place to live. We want to ensure that our public leaders are held accountable and that we uplift and celebrate the successes going on around us every day.

I hope you’ll add your voice to the mix.

Thank you for your loyal paying membership of The Day.

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