Rochester Post-Bulletin joins the comment-moderation crowd

Editors at the Rochester Post-Bulletin won’t clean up your online mess anymore.

P-B managing editor Jay Furst announced Monday that editors will begin screening comments before they appear; currently, they delete offending comments after they’ve appeared beneath a story.

The new policy reflects MinnPost’s approach (though we also use hardworking volunteers). However, it doesn’t always work out: this summer, the Fargo Forum abandoned staff pre-review for a separate comment-only site that promotes or hides opinions based on reader ratings.

Furst says there was no single comment or key event that prompted the change. The P-B gets about 300 comments a day and Furst says only “a relatively small number of repeat offenders” cause trouble, so parceling out the work is do-able. He estimates the chore may take a couple of hours per day, and has worked at the Moline Dispatch, another paper in the P-B’s group.

“We don’t edit or anything else — either it’s an appropriate comment and we hit ‘post,’ or it violates our terms of use and we spike it,” he notes. “Already we’ve heard from several readers who appreciate the change and what it says about our intent to create a more civil, reasonable and interesting comment environment. I know for a fact that a lot of people who’d like to comment simply don’t because they don’t want to get stuck in the muck. Hopefully we win points with readers for doing this.”

Pre-review does slow down “real time ” discussions, but so-called trolls can’t hijack discussions. In the comment thread to Furst’s comment announcement, some worried P-B editors would spike comments critical of local institutions such as “Mayo, IBM or the school district” but Furst insists tone and language, not point-of-view, will be the trigger-tripper.

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