Encouraging civic responsibility on-line
March 3, 2007 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good examples of how a newspaper's reader discussion forum should be managed.

My state's major newspaper, the News Journal (Gannett) now allows "story chat" on all stories. This is common, but I think the readers of this paper have allowed the forums to be over-run by trolls. The forums cry-out for moderation, and I might point to MetaFilter as an example of a well-run on-line forum, but I'd also like examples of newspaper forums that are effectively moderated to drop into this discussion.
posted by mmahaffie to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not a newspaper, exactly, but salon.com does a pretty good job, without often appearing either heavy handed, or being taken over by spammers/trolls/abusers. Letters to the Editor (aka "Active Letters" or "Letters") is a front page feature, directing links to response streams to recent Salon articles and features. TableTalk is a Salon user forum, divided into a few general topic areas. The WELL is a descendant of the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link.
posted by paulsc at 7:57 AM on March 3, 2007

What about the Huffington Post?

Although it seems like they have a large staff dedicated to maintaining the site. I don't suppose that most papers can afford that.

Most papers don't seem to plan or staff for upkeep.

I like how every comment can be easily flagged as "abusive." And I think they have the staff to follow through with deleting comments promptly.
posted by cda at 8:08 AM on March 3, 2007

The NYT handles it by having all comments moderated. Nothing goes up unless someone OKs it.
posted by mathowie at 9:17 AM on March 3, 2007

As another negative example, the LA times tried running a wiki and quickly closed it down. They didn't make adequate efforts for professional moderation in the early days, and so community standards quickly went to hell.

Check out the Lawrence Kansas paper and see if you like what they do. One of their tech guys is a member here (jacobian, I think).
posted by Good Brain at 9:46 AM on March 3, 2007

You might be limiting yourself, by only looking at newspaper forums.

Take a look at visualeditors.com, which is geared towards news design.

Warren Ellis's The engine forums are pretty well run, but they put up zero BS and make you sign up by using a real name. Otherwise it does a good job of being inane,fun, informative with a low noise threshold.

I would argue that a newspaper forum needs some active and specific admin set up from the beginning, as the crazy people tend to come out and will wreck the place given an inch. The whole idea of a newspaper forum might even be coutner productive as there is no specific purpose, other than to let peole ramble (or scream on) about whatever floats their boat at the moment. And oh god, thread drift....

So give the forum a specific purpose-talk about local issues etc, and be kinda ruthless about focusing on that. Otherwise you'll just get a troll breeding ground.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:03 AM on March 3, 2007

The BBC comments are 100% moderated and they have a number of fulltime staffers specifically allocated as mods/community managers. I think they do a pretty nice job of modding without restricting the flow of conversation.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 11:38 AM on March 3, 2007

The (Colorado Springs) Gazette seems to have a fairly simple policy - if the comments thread on an article goes particularly off-topic or nasty then just close it to further comments. This means that major derails will be shut down but it allows people to shut-down comments on something they don't want comments on with a derail campaign. But basically it makes people stay somewhat on-topic.

Note: the Gazette is the home town of Ted Haggard.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:39 PM on March 3, 2007

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