MinnPost and the art of civil comment

A couple of weeks ago, a pair of posts by David Brauer here and here about the almost-anything-goes commenting at startribune.com attracted more than 50 comments about comments.

I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the commenters stated their conclusion that MinnPost’s policy produced the most civil comment threads of all local media. My favorite was by Bill Gleason, who wrote:  “Having left a lot of comments on a lot of sites — I have to reluctantly conclude that MinnPost’s rules are the best….”

MinnPost requires commenters to register with their real names, and all comments are screened by volunteer moderators before being posted.

MinnPost’s commenters, for the most part, police themselves.  Of 17,466 comments submitted from launch less than two years ago through yesterday, only 968 — less than 6% — have been rejected. 

But even a good policy can be improved upon, and we see a need for a tweak.  We already reject comments for name-calling and inflammatory speech, for self-promoting, and for irrelevance to the topic, but we’re seeing an uncivil pattern among some comments that we have been accepting: snideness, or gratuitous insult of the intelligence or character of fellow commenters and others.

From now on, we will reject comments that refer to other people’s comments (or the commenters themselves) as vapid, nonsensical and so on. 

The vast majority of MinnPost’s commenters do a great job of adding value to our stories with facts, personal experiences and substantive arguments.  The few who don’t will find more of their submissions rejected.  

If you think that my position here is mindless, or I’m some kind of nut or petty dictator, you’re entitled to your opinion, of course. But don’t bother submitting a comment expressing it, because it won’t be published here.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 08/13/2009 - 09:52 am.

    Reject comments?!? Why, you #@!*!

    Keep up the good work, MinnPost.

  2. Submitted by Peter Vader on 08/13/2009 - 11:14 am.

    “But don’t bother submitting a comment expressing [Joel Kramer’s fatheadedness], because it won’t be published here.”

    Is this to say that neither would it be read by the editors? There are other reasons to comment than for publication.

  3. Submitted by Bill Siegel on 08/13/2009 - 11:39 am.

    I too have noticed a slight change in the tone of some comments recently and it disappoints me. I hope that all commentators come to MinnPost to engage and discuss in a thoughtful, respectful manner and that you won’t have to reject any comments.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/13/2009 - 11:54 am.

    Thanks for the laugh, Robert!

    I have strong opinions and am sometimes surprised that my comments have been accepted for publication. MinnPost allows a great deal of latitude, but I do appreciate your vigilance. If anyone has checked out Politico, you find that many responses are just plain outrageous. I unsubscribed for that reason.

  5. Submitted by Joel Kramer on 08/13/2009 - 12:33 pm.

    Peter, comments are screened by volunteer moderators, not by editors. If you want to communicate with an editor (rather than comment for publication), I encourage you to email the editor directly. You can reach me at jkramer@minnpost.com, for example, or you can write to info@minnpost.com and your note will be forwarded to the appropriate editor.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/13/2009 - 12:42 pm.

    I agree Joel; commenting on the commentators is fruitless.

    Besides, there is plenty of vapid nonsense contained in some of MinnPost’s articles to satiate the most enthusiasticly verbose critic.

  7. Submitted by Juniper Johansen on 08/13/2009 - 01:02 pm.

    I agree when you read the comments in the Star Tribune – it is pretty horrific to read what people are saying most of the time.

    From our perspective as a gay family any story that relates to gay issues is full of homophobic diatribe.

    But to be fair to the Star Tribune they did reply to our email saying wire stories are posted with comments enable and if any gay story is posted then to ask them to moderate comments.

    But sadly by this time it is too late as the homophobic comments are posted.

    It would be nice if all Star Tribune comments were moderated and checked out and ditched due to lack of civil discourse.

    Good work guys and gals.

  8. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/13/2009 - 01:35 pm.

    Good idea! I have only had 2 comments rejected one for an overlong academic quote and one for going over to the dark side. Cheers.

  9. Submitted by Leslie Hittner - Winona on 08/14/2009 - 05:12 am.

    The arguments for anonymous comments are pretty weak…unless one agrees that the end result indeed does represent the “true” thoughts of mainstream of America. I’m not yet that cynical and believe that there are vastly more people like me who simply will not participate in such forums.

    Minnpost is one of a very few on-line sources that does it right.


  10. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/14/2009 - 08:33 pm.

    In the old days, people of integrity made decisions and stood by them. We need to see more of this behavior today. Thanks, Joel.

  11. Submitted by Terry Nagle on 08/19/2009 - 08:59 am.

    At a time when mob hysteria seems to rule public comment MinnPost has become a rare, but much appreciated outpost for civil discourse. Thank you.

  12. Submitted by MaryAnn Dean on 08/28/2009 - 12:59 pm.

    I don’t usually comment. I happen to believe that some of us know more than others and I’m not always sure just where I stand. And while everyone has the right to an opinion, I don’t want to know all of them.

    But I do want to say “THANK YOU FOR CIVILITY!!”

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