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Reader survey helps determine new policies for user comments


The News-Register has re-deployed software to allow public comments on our website articles.

A significant change from past policies is that participants now are required to register with real names.

When registering – and at later times – a user decides whether to post comments under a real name or an anonymous screen name.

Our thanks to all who participated in an online survey – nearly 250 people – who helped us design the new policy. Those survey results are listed below.



First, here are the new policies for leaving public comments on our website:

--- All users wishing to comment must register on the website. Registrations from the old website were erased in the transition. Please re-register.

--- Users may create a screen name or public identity to appear with their comments.

--- Each user is required to provide the News-Register with his or her real name and e-mail address. We will not post this information, but we require it. If you don't want to register with a real name, don't register – anyone submitting false identities will be barred from leaving comments on the website.

--- Our policy on displaying comments remains as it was in the past: All comments appear on the website when they are submitted. The News-Register will edit or delete statements when our published policies are violated, which can lead to warnings and termination of rights.

Here is the bottom line:

We have administered online comments the past few years, generating lots of internal discussion. We believe that these comments add to the public discussion, and we recognize that there are times when anonymity is necessary to draw out that discussion.

However, we also have concluded that the system needs more accountability. So, we bring back comments on this website with the requirement that participants register with real names. Our new program will display real names only when users approve it in their personal profiles.

We encourage everyone to speak out, with civility and good taste. We hope that the new policies will encourage just that.



SURVEY RESULTS:

Here are results from our online survey, which asked three questions about comment posts on NewsRegister.com:

Do you read comments on NewsRegister.com articles?

No – 8.1%
Occasionally – 41.7%
Regularly – 48.3
Read and Respond with a comment – 1.9%

Have you ever posted a comment on our website?

No – 50%
Once – 14.3%
Occasionally – 32.8%
Often – 2.9%

Should people be required to use their real names on their posts?

No – 44.5%
They should be encouraged to voluntarily use real names – 26.8%
Real Names should be required – 28.7%

We asked people to comment on their responses to the third question. Here are representative statements from those who opposed anonymous comments:

“If folks have an opinion worth sharing, they should stand behind it by posting their name.”

“The media has no obligation to provide a public forum for people to anonymously express hatred and vitriol. I believe that requiring writers to sign their names will lead to a higher quality of public discourse and community problem solving.”

“I believe full names should be required so readers can have a civil discourse. I think Comments sections may become more meaningful if that were the case.”

“I don't think comments should be selected and edited like the Letters to the Editor, but I do think people should use their name and be held to some minimal standard of behavior.  I mostly avoid comments on other news sites because they sink to lots of name-calling.”

“If people did use their real names, they might be inclined to give more measured responses.”

A near-majority of respondents, however, were on the other side, advocating for an open and unrestrained forum:

“Requiring names can often stifle the true nature of a vibrant online discussion. It has been shown to be true many times. While it would be great if we were all comfortable putting names, the fact is those titles that our names imply often turn commenting into a sort of caste system that leads to reduced discussion. Allowing anonymous comments allows anyone - young/old, rich/poor, man/woman, black/white, whatever - to comment freely on any discussion without their comments being considered more/less based solely on a name or title.”

“Yes, BRING THEM BACK and don't be concerned or afraid about anonymous comments. What a bunch of ninnies!”

 “I don't understand why you would ask if people have to use their real name? That seems silly especially since every news site I've ever read comments on does not require it. I don't think people would be as open and honest with their comments were it not for the use of a 'screen name.' Silly question.”

 “This is a small town, and people often can't share their honest opinion if their name is shown.”

 “Loosen up and stop being the Nanny Paper.”

Finally, there were those in the middle:

 “The comments section of the NR, like most online comments, is like a car wreck. It's horrible, but I can't keep myself from looking.”

 “Just keep it clean, and no hateful remarks, please.”

 “You should require commenters to register so at least YOU know who they are, and can ban comments that are mean-spirited, racist or plain ugly. Speak freely, but respectfully.”

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