The Thanksgiving break wasn’t all fun and games for The Northerner, instead we faced an issue I had yet to experience or deal with.
On Nov. 19, The Northerner published an article online about a former NKU staff member recently being charged with voyeurism. By the end of the night, comments were posted on the article that referenced real people, accusing some of being involved in the situation.
I chose to take these comments down from the site. Because real names were used and because the comments were published on our site, if legal action were taken, The Northerner could be held liable. I also chose to take down the remaining comments because they did not contribute to or encourage discussion on the topic.
Instead, the users used the site as an area to vent negative feelings about the subject, which I didn’t think could foster useful discussion on the article’s content.
Unfortunately, there was a glitch in communication among myself and the staff, so the comments were made visible again by the end of the week.
Currently commenting is disabled on the article on thenortherner.com.
At the time of the article’s publication, The Northerner did not have a comment policy, but with the recent developments it was clear that one was necessary for the future.
In an effort to draft a policy, I consulted with The Northerner’s adviser, a professional from the Society of Professional Journalists and staff members about what it should include. I also researched other news organizations’ comment policies and found that all major websites do monitor reader comments.
The Northerner now has a policy for commenting on articles on thenortherner.com to prevent future miscommunications and problems, but also to continue to encourage the marketplace of ideas, useful dialogue and constructive criticism.
The new comment policy reads as follows:
The Northerner welcomes and encourages comments from readers on thenortherner.com. With that, it is necessary that the comments also further the discussion on a given article or subject.
Any comments submitted to thenortherner.com will go through a staff member before being approved and posted on the site.
The Northerner reserves the right to remove any comments that are off topic, invade privacy, or contain racist, sexist, discriminatory or potentially libelous remarks. The Northerner generally will not allow comments on articles or subjects dealing with sexual harassment, assault or related topics because of the potential harm to subjects and legal implications. These types of comments often are the basis for personal attacks, therefore are not advancing the discussion.
The Northerner reserves the right to disable comments on any article.
Although full names are not required, we encourage readers to include them when submitting comments. A valid email is required when submitting comments. Commenters who do use a full name will receive preference over those that are anonymous. We believe those who identify themselves will be more likely to bring useful ideas to the discussion.
This policy is not meant to inhibit constructive criticism, diverse perspectives or a free flow of meaningful communication. Rather, it is a means to raise the level of healthy discussion among readers.