Reader comments on Pantagraph.com often are informative, sparking serious dialogue on an issue of local or national interest. At other times, they are offensive and devoid of civility, the worst of which include personal attacks and/or assertions that have nothing to do with the story.
In recent weeks, we have seen too much of the latter on some local stories. Far too much. So, effective immediately and through the New Year’s holiday weekend, no comments will be allowed on new local content posted on Pantagraph.com.
This “cooling off” period is meant as a strong reminder to our online readers: that the reason comments are allowed in the first place is to foster a “spirit of community involvement and conversation.”
That is taken directly from The Pantagraph’s online commenting policy that continues: “We ask that you keep your conversation clean, civil and respectful. You may, of course, openly disagree with the published stories or other user comments, but we expect that you and others will not submit objectionable posts, obscenity, defamatory remarks, commercial messages or violations of copyright, trademark or intellectual property. When commenting on crime-related stories, remember that suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The Pantagraph staff reserves the right to remove any posted comment at any time for any reason.”
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The problem is one of civility. Another specific part of the policy states: “You will not post anything libelous, defamatory, obscene, harmful, vulgar, threatening, harassing, abusive, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, or otherwise illegal.”
Unfortunately, some commenters choose to ignore the rules of fair play and civil discourse, which only yields responses from others that turn a legitimate “discussion” into a free-for-all that has no place on our Web site. Continued abuse of our standards could lead to further restrictions.
Whether this “cooling off” period will improve the situation remains to be seen, but online readers should take this message to heart, so that on Jan. 4, we can return to allowing comments that avoid the hostility, insults — and worse — that have been too evident in recent weeks.
-- Mark Pickering, editor
P.S. -- Thank you for your comments on this decision. No more comments are being accepted on this matter as of 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31.