From the ABA Journal editors: Let's talk about comments
As a news magazine, we have long embraced the concept of an active commenter base.
Good comments are gold for us. They deepen the conversations on our site, add insights and anecdotes we couldn’t get except from these shared reader experiences. Commenters are also responsible for pointing us to new stories and new ideas, and alerting us to our errors.
Still, the picture is not all good. We knew from the start that comment moderation wouldn’t be easy. We set rules. Not too many, but rules that we believed and still believe are fair:
Comments are a place for our readers to debate—sometimes quite vigorously—the issues we cover. Please respect our readers’ diversity of opinion and look for ways to further the discussion.
But there are also limits to that debate. Don’t use profanity or resort to name-calling, threats or personal attacks. Don’t spam the site with advertising. And don’t masquerade as someone you’re not.
The policy is still a good one, yet we’ve noticed we’re expending more staff time than we can afford to moderate comments, often because of political baiting and general incivility. We’re also getting more complaints from readers about the comments.
With the increase in staff time devoted to moderation, we took a closer look at our comments and how many of our readers actually commented on stories. It’s 2 percent. A full 5.2 percent of our site readers clicked to read comments during the month of November.
If this analytics snapshot is accurate, it’s not a huge number of readers. But it’s enough that we’d like to continue offering the feature on ABAJournal.com.
However, you may notice some changes:
• During holidays and long weekends, we’re giving everyone a break and removing the comment function.
• You may notice comments turned off of individual stories when comment streams turn nasty or take an inordinate amount of moderation time.
• We long ago turned comments off of all suicide stories because those stories always attracted hateful, mean-spirited comments that did nothing to add to the conversation on ABAJournal.com.
And you’ll see our Web editors jumping into the comment stream to urge civility.
We are taking these steps to avoid dropping comments altogether. We treasure thoughtful comments, witty banter and bold remarks that lead to civil debate.
We hope the changes we’re making will improve the overall comment experience for our readers and our moderators.
Your feedback is welcome,
Editor and Publisher
Assistant Managing Editor
Deputy Web Editor