Editorial: An end to anonymous commenting

Black Press moves to new format for commenting on-line

For the past few years online readers have been able to comment on stories, letters and opinions through the Disgus platform on the Sooke News Mirror’s web page. While we have enjoyed reading the opinions and the back and forth comments, it has led to some pretty nasty comments being posted. People tend to get more personal and mean-spirited when they don’t have to give their name. Thus the change. The Sooke News Mirror has always had a lively Letters to the Editor page and we hope this will continue to be the platform where you have your say. It’s what most Sooke people read in the paper as  shown by the monitoring done by our web people. In fact, Sooke has one of the most involved and spirited communities on Southern Vancouver Island. It means we care and want to speak out.

BCLocalNews.com and the Sooke News Mirror is joining the trend away from anonymous comments on our site. Dec. 1, we switch to Facebook’s Commenting platform.

For the last few years, as BCLocalNews.com and our family of websites have garnered more attention, some readers have raised concerns about one issue in particular – the fact we allow visitors to post anonymous comments.

The policy has led to some unpleasant and mean-spirited postings. It’s also raised an inconsistency in our Black Press brand. Our community newspapers don’t print anonymous letters, yet we’ve allowed our websites to become a place where people can hide their identity while occasionally taking shots at one another.

Starting Dec. 1, that policy will change.

People will only be able to comment by using their Facebook account, which means their name, often even their photograph, will be linked to the statements they post.

BCLocalNews.,com is not alone in making this shift. Several media companies, equally troubled by the vitriolic trend of anonymous comments, are turning to Facebook to power their website commenting.

All of Black Press in B.C., Alberta and Washington State have made the switch. Our sister publications have continued to see spirited discourse among those who post comments, yet the discourse is at a much higher level, and commentators are generally well-mannered and on-topic.

This new approach won’t be perfect. People without a Facebook account won’t be able to participate in online discussions.

Still, we’re enthused to be in the vanguard of this movement. It shows we’re listening to our readers and responding. It places us more deeply into the powerful world of social media: by using Facebook Comments, we’re embracing a social medium with 800 million users worldwide.

For those of you who choose not to create a Facebook account, remember we will continue to run letters to the editor in print – you can submit them to: editor@ sookenewsmirror.com or deliver by hand or mail to the Sooke News Mirror office. So please continue to be a part of the discussion. Your comments are part of an important dialogue that enlivens and enriches civic life in our communities.

We attempted to answer most common questions on our Frequently Asked Questions page. Go to: www.bclocalnews.com.