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NYTimes digital editor on moderating reader comments

Interesting reader Q&A with Jim Roberts of The New York Times, who answers questions about digital storytelling, how reporters are adjusting to handle breaking news online, and how The Times handles reader comments.

Unlike some other news sites, we review every single comment that readers send in. We have considered trying software that filters profanity or doing what other sites do and allowing readers to flag objectionable comments. But so far we have not found anything that substitutes for having trained editors or news assistants read each one to make sure it is suitable for publication.

So, what is suitable? Well, we do want to know what people think, and we grant our readers a degree of leeway in criticizing newsmakers and in finding fault with how we present the news. But we draw the line in these ways:

1. No profanity. No obscenity. No asterisks that take the place of letters in objectionable words.

2. No name calling or insults. I don’t like it when I see the words “idiot” or “moron” or “fascist.” I can be somewhat tolerant of harsh criticism of public officials, but I am super-aggressive in deleting comments in which other commenters are being attacked. And while I don’t mind criticism of The New York Times, personal attacks on our reporters won’t be tolerated. And forget about ethnic, racial, religious or sexual slurs. Finally, try not to dominate the conversation so that other people have the opportunity to express their opinions even if they disagree with yours.

3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic are pointless and will be bounced. And we tend to set the bar even higher when we have a huge flow on a certain subject and some of the sentiments seem repetitive.

4. Don’t bother sending press releases.

5. Don’t rage and don’t SHOUT. Lot’s of readers seem to think that UPPERCASE comments are more effective in getting their points across. We prefer a more tempered conversation.

6. Please use your real name. We don’t require this but we’d like to know who you are. If you sign your name Bill Clinton or Frank Zappa, we’ll in all likelihood delete it, unless we’re certain you’re the former president or the reincarnated Mother of Invention.

Jun 29, 2007 | E-MAIL | SAVE | PRINT | PERMALINK | DISCUSS(3)



Discussion

3 comments about 'NYTimes digital editor on moderating reader comments'

Am looking to speak with Jim Roberts. I was lost childhood friend and neighbor in Richmond 1960-1964. Our parents were friends. Would like dialog.

Posted by Karen Fox at July 29, 2007 5:38 AM

Am looking to speak with Jim Roberts. I was lost childhood friend and neighbor in Richmond 1960-1964. Our parents were friends. Would like dialog.

Posted by Karen Fox at July 29, 2007 5:40 AM

Am looking to speak with Jim Roberts. I was lost childhood friend and neighbor in Richmond 1960-1964. Our parents were friends. Would like dialog.

Posted by Karen Fox at July 29, 2007 5:44 AM



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