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Yes We Censor: The Impact of Commenting Policies on Two Nonprofit Community Journalism Websites
Unformatted Document Text:  RunningHead: Yes We Censor 3 Introduction When the editor of the North County Times, a mid-sized daily in San Diego County, notified online readers that the paper’s website would no longer allow anonymous comments on news stories, he received more than 210 replies, many of which contained the type of rhetoric the new policy sought to quell (Davy, 2010c). In his original post, Kent Davy suggested that the policy change was needed to prevent incivility including: “name-calling, profanity, bigotry, snarky innuendo and just plain meanness” and conform more with conventional newspaper requirements for printed letters to the editor (Davy, 2010a). But 70% of the commenters disagreed with the new policy, according to Davy who posted a follow up response a few days later (2010c). In one of the comments, a user named “Pegasus” first accused the newspaper of supporting illegal immigration and then continued (sic): “This site in used by Adults that have emotions' we don't try to tell them what to do in a free and OPEN FOURM. you have too many rules already” (Davy, 2010b, Comments). Traditional newspaper editors have been struggling with how to accommodate and whether to moderate online readers’ comments since the development of software that allowed users to post responses to news stories. Most news organizations began by accepting anonymous comments online, relying on software filters to weed out inappropriate language, spam and potentially libelous statements. But automatic filters don’t take into account tone, potentially libelous, or off topic remarks, causing many news organizations to devote a large amount of staff time to research reports of abuse by readers after the fact. In one week, for example, the North County Times staff investigated 445 complaints of abusive comments (Davy, 2010a). Some scholars, however, (Beckett, 2009; Gillmor, 2006; Reynolds, 2006) have viewed the ability for readers to interact with journalists online as a positive and necessary development,

Authors: Nee, Rebecca.
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RunningHead: Yes We Censor 
 
 
 
Introduction 
 
When the editor of the North County Times, a mid-sized daily in San Diego County, 
notified online readers that the paper’s website would no longer allow anonymous comments on 
news stories, he received more than 210 replies, many of which contained the type of rhetoric the 
new policy sought to quell (Davy, 2010c). In his original post, Kent Davy suggested that the 
policy change was needed to prevent incivility including: “name-calling, profanity, bigotry, 
snarky innuendo and just plain meanness” and conform more with conventional newspaper 
requirements for printed letters to the editor (Davy, 2010a). But 70% of the commenters 
disagreed with the new policy, according to Davy who posted a follow up response a few days 
later (2010c). In one of the comments, a user named “Pegasus” first accused the newspaper of 
supporting illegal immigration and then continued (sic): “This site in used by Adults that have 
emotions' we don't try to tell them what to do in a free and OPEN FOURM. you have too many 
rules already” (Davy, 2010b, Comments). 
 
Traditional newspaper editors have been struggling with how to accommodate and 
whether to moderate online readers’ comments since the development of software that allowed 
users to post responses to news stories. Most news organizations began by accepting anonymous 
comments online, relying on software filters to weed out inappropriate language, spam and 
potentially libelous statements. But automatic filters don’t take into account tone, potentially 
libelous, or off topic remarks, causing many news organizations to devote a large amount of staff 
time to research reports of abuse by readers after the fact. In one week, for example, the North 
County Times staff investigated 445 complaints of abusive comments (Davy, 2010a).  
 
Some scholars, however, (Beckett, 2009; Gillmor, 2006; Reynolds, 2006) have viewed 
the ability for readers to interact with journalists online as a positive and necessary development, 


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