All readers deserve respect
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:00 am
Longtime readers of the St. Albert Gazette’s website may have noticed some changes recently.
Beginning in early July, a new editor took charge, including new moderation of news articles on the newspaper website. The word “new” may be somewhat misleading.
The St. Albert Gazette already had in place a terms-of-service statement for posting comments alongside the news, scene, sports and opinion articles that appear on the website. The statement reads, “The St. Albert Gazette welcomes your opinions and comments. We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to delete comments deemed inappropriate. We reserve the right to close the comments thread for stories that are deemed especially sensitive. For further information, please contact the editor or publisher.”
The statement has been in place for a number of years, but wasn’t being actively enforced. It is being actively enforced now, along with the elimination of any “guest” or anonymous comments after the new editor took over. Anyone who believes strongly enough in what they say will be willing to have a name associated with their comments.
Is it really necessary to moderate and even delete some comments?
Some comments recently deleted from the Gazette website:
• “Give it up already big-mouth.”
• “Give me animals over stupid humans.”
• A comment that compared another reader to an abortion, and
• A multitude of “please vote for (insert candidate name here)” posts. Alternatively, many also stated “I don’t like such-and-such an election candidate, and I don’t think anyone else should either.”
All legitimate newspapers that allow online discussion of articles have a comprehensive posting policy. Most are actually much more detailed than the Gazette’s.
It should be noted that all editorial policies in effect for the regular newspaper are also in effect for comments posted on the newspaper website. For instance, during an election campaign the Gazette will not allow any letters to the editor endorsing or attacking any declared candidate. The same goes for comments left on the Gazette website. Such behaviour raises questions about whether or not all candidates were treated fairly by the newspaper, or if the paper played favourites.
The purpose of commenting on stories is to encourage a civil discourse in which readers can exchange ideas, not to host no-holds-barred insults, anonymous attacks or free campaign space for politicians. The owners and managers of the St. Albert Gazette want the website to be a welcoming place where all readers are treated with equality, dignity and respect.