Online comments policy will help keep discussion relevant, mature
The Arizona Daily Wildcat strives to be a voice for UA students and the community. Part of that mission is about providing a free and open forum for discussion by our readers, particularly on our website.
Prior to August 2012, the Wildcat pre-moderated online comments. But, if we want to keep true to our desire for a forum of open dialogue and discussion, then comments should be posted freely — not sit in a moderation queue for hours until they are published.
However, we have also recognized that not all comments are thoughtful and appropriate. When people make comments like “Damn Puritans, I wish I could burn Taco Bell employees at the stake,” in a column about party security, it contributes nothing to an intelligent online discussion.
Last week, the Daily Wildcat’s Standards and Practices Committee met to lay down guidelines for online commenting.
A few days earlier, the Daily Wildcat published two stories in particular that received an influx of online comments — one a commentary on college party culture and the other an opinions column on “sugar babies” who accept money in exchange for companionship.
While many comments created excellent discussion, we also saw several that personally attacked a writer, used unnecessary expletives and veered off-topic.
For example, “Dude Greg, if you wanna be a hater, than do it somewhere appropriate. When doing this story you need to grow up and realize what college is. Your little cry-baby rant is the saddest lamest thing ill have to read in probably all of college and most likely my whole life.” This comment is hardly on topic, and doesn’t do much to contribute to any meaningful discussion. And that was one of the milder ones.
In planning our commenting guidelines, the committee tried to be conscious of restricting users’ speech and thoughts. Committee members immediately agreed that pre-moderation and editing comments were both out of the question.
However, according to our guidelines, the Daily Wildcat reserves the right to remove a comment if it attacks a person or group (including Wildcat employees), uses excessive obscenities, makes threats or encourages violence or illegal behavior.
If a comment “discriminates against a group on the basis of gender, religion, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other identity” it will be removed.
The comment section of the Daily Wildcat is an open forum for readers, and therefore we want to encourage as much discussion as we can. But it also has to be the sort of forum where all users feel comfortable in expressing their opinion without being told they’re “probably still a virgin,” like one commenter on the party story. To help ensure this, the Wildcat has created a “three-strike rule” for banning users who “consistently violate the guidelines.”
These guidelines have been posted in the “About” section on the Daily Wildcat’s website. Starting today, we will have our digital media editor monitor the comments throughout the day, and readers can flag other users’ comments as inappropriate.
Whether you agree or disagree with the topics at hand, we welcome your comments — but maturity and relevance are key.
— Lynley Price is the readers representative. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @Lynleyprice.