FAMILY PORTRAIT: Our blog team braves the chilly temps on The Roanoke Times roof deck before our pizza lunch, where we discussed our commenting guidelines.
BACK ROW (from left): Mark Taylor, Doug Doughty, Kevin Myatt, Aaron McFarling, Ray Cox, Matt Chittum, Dwayne Yancey, David Verde, Robert Anderson, and Michael Stowe.
MIDDLE ROW (from left): Andy Bitter, Mike Allen, Tad Dickens, Steve Hemphill, Dan Casey, Christina Nuckols, Danielle Dunaway, and Mark Berman.
FRONT ROW (from left): Lindsey Nair, Rebecca Holland, Amanda Codispoti, Mary Hardbarger, Karen Hager, Annie McCallum, Stephanie Ogilvie, and Dana Bailey.
Photo by Rebecca Barnett | The Roanoke Times
A rare event happened at The Roanoke Times today: All of our bloggers came together in one place for a pizza lunch, where editor Carole Tarrant discussed some blogging rules and tips before we roll out our redesigned website in January.
One of the top agenda items was to brief us on our commenting mission and some FAQs that will help explain our process.
Please read them over and let us know if you have any questions: Are they clear? Are we missing anything you might be curious about?
The Roanoke Times welcomes your comments on our blogs, but there are some rules of the road. If you want to post here: Keep your language clean and your comments on topic. Don’t defame another’s reputation. Don’t threaten, harass or intimidate another individual. In a phrase: be civil. Our detailed rules are available for reading here.
What is our commenting philosophy and mission?
We want to offer a forum to readers — and host conversations about what’s going on across our valleys. Our aim is to provide a cordial, constructive, safe place to chat, like a digital front porch. We want comments to help improve the quality of our journalism and our community. We allow anonymous comments (with registration through our blogs) — but moderate for civility.
Why don’t comments appear on every story?
Because we take the time to moderate comments, we have to make choices about which stories to build conversations around.
Why do we direct comments to our blogs?
Years ago, we made the decision to host conversations about our stories on the blogs. They are hosted by real, live human beings whose presence, we believe, can have a positive impact on online conversations. Because the bloggers moderate the comments and engage with readers there, we wanted to continue that tradition with the redesigned website.
How do we select stories for comments? Can readers suggest a comment thread?
Our editors and reporters decide which stories might spark the most constructive conversations. We encourage readers to suggest a comment thread on our Times Square blog.
Who moderates the comments?
Our individual bloggers moderate the bulk of the comments, with occasional moderation by online producers and editors.
Why might there be a lag time between the time I post a comment and when it appears on the blog?
We at The Roanoke Times are committed to creating cordial forums for discussion where people can express their feelings on controversial topics without opening themselves to personal attacks. That commitment takes a great deal of effort on the part of our staff. We do not rely on a computer program that can magically discern whether a commenter is being naughty or nice. Real people make that determination.
Moderating the blogs is not a task relegated to normal business hours. We do our best to check in regularly on evenings and weekends and even major holidays. That said, it’s not possible for us to be on the alert 24/7. We sleep, have dinner with our families and try not to annoy people in the next row when we go to see a movie.
What are some reasons why my comment might be rejected?
Blog posts that contain profanity, obscenities, potentially libelous statements or personal attacks on other commenters or individuals in the news will be rejected. Public officials open themselves to a greater level of criticism and that is reflected in our moderation. However, petty name-calling is never appropriate.
It’s best when posting comments on the blog to write about your opinions on a particular subject rather than commenting on the quality of the arguments made by those with an opposing view. However, in a true public forum everyone must expect to be challenged. While personal attacks are banned, that doesn’t extend to every form of criticism. Even so, that criticism should be tied to the issue being debated. It’s appropriate to tell another commenter, “You haven’t done your research,” but inappropriate to say, “You are an idiot.”
Why do the rules of engagement seem to change from blog to blog?
Each blog is moderated by a different human being. In some cases, several moderators share in the task. While we have a single policy to guide us on what is and is not appropriate, there are always comments that require a judgment call, and different people will respond differently. Moderators also are guided by the subject matter and mission of their specific blogs.
For example, the conversation will naturally get heated on The RoundTable, a forum for exchanging views on politics and often controversial issues. The debate on The Fridge Magnet is typically less confrontational.