Eagle is changing the way readers comment on its website

09/28/2013 12:01 AM

09/27/2013 5:28 PM

For as long as we’ve provided space for comments on Kansas.com articles, blogs and opinion pieces, we’ve answered complaints from readers who too often find some of those comments to be rude, hateful and generally uncivil.

Over time, we've increased the time and attention spent to deleting offensive comments and blocking commenters who frequently violate our commenting guidelines. Our editors remove more than 1,000 comments a week. The effect of the vitriol is to dissuade many readers from participating in the discussion. That runs contrary to our intent in providing commenting space: to create a digital town hall for readers to discuss community issues and events.

The prime enabler of insults and attacks in story comments is the anonymity that commenters can cloak themselves in.

Beginning Monday, we're taking a step toward greater accountability in story comments, ending anonymous posting on Kansas.com and Wichita Eagle blogs. Commenters will be required to log in with a Facebook account to post comments.

You won't need a Facebook account to read comments on stories. But you will need one to post comments. We've put together a Q&A to help answer your questions about the new commenting system.

Many of our readers are already among more than one billion people who have Facebook accounts. Most people use their real names for their accounts, giving a greater accountability to their posts. I realize that others simply don’t want a Facebook account and may not be happy with this change.

The Facebook commenting platform is not perfect. But it’s better. Among news sites that have already made this change, the result has been a decrease in caustic comments. I recognize that some commenters will find a way around the new system and use a fake account. Facebook has a good mechanism for blocking fake accounts, and our editors will block obviously false accounts that slip through. We’ll continue to monitor and remove inappropriate comments.

One common disgruntlement with Facebook commenting is that some readers don’t feel safe sharing a tip or observation with their name attached. We receive far more story suggestions through e-mail than story comments, and we continue to welcome direct communication to our editors at wenews@wichitaeagle.com.

We realize that this change will mean fewer comments. We'll accept that trade-off, though, with the hope that this improves the quality of discussion on Kansas.com and creates a more-welcoming environment for those who may have been put off by the tone of discussions.

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