Saturday, November 22, 2014
Local & State News

Thursday, Dec. 05, 2013

From the Editor

The Star’s online commenting policy

The Kansas City Star

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A few years ago, an Independence man died after drinking to excess with friends on his 21st birthday.

Later, his anguished mother consented to speak for a story. Despite the awful tragedy that had just befallen the family, she wanted to say a few kind words about her son, to tearfully remember that he had been a good and decent kid.

She talked about how he worked at Sears to support his 2-year-old son. She talked about his last day, about the family putting $65 in a card and how she asked him to stay home his birthday night.

It was a heart-wrenching story — and a nightmare scenario for any parent reading it.

Since we published it in The Star and on, it drew a large audience that began commenting online about what had occurred. Unfortunately, those comments quickly got out of hand.

Hiding behind the shroud of anonymity, a few commenters said smug, loathsome things about the young man. Some even blamed the mother for his death. Around that time, we came in and shut it down.

That day stands out years later because it represented a line in the sand for us. We began disabling comments on more stories, in cases where we don’t believe the greater public good is served by having them there.

It was addition by subtraction. Fewer hateful and unnecessary comments equaled a more civil conversation. We wouldn’t allow these comments in our print editions, and we have the same standards for our digital products.

The Star will now take another big step forward. Beginning today, readers who want to comment on will be required to log in using a Facebook account.

For the record, we appreciate and encourage commenting on our stories. We want a thorough discourse on important issues and topics across the board. We find interesting context and useful tips in the comments sections. Most of our users behave thoughtfully.

But a few nameless, faceless readers are poisoning the well for everyone. That’s where Facebook comes in. Facebook users generally go by their real names, and many of our readers are on Facebook already. The discussion often improves when people are using their own names.

We realize there’s no perfect commenting solution right now, and that there are some concerns about Facebook, such as the privacy issues that have made news all summer.

At this point, it seems to be the best model going, and lots of news organizations around the country are deploying it. So far, we’ve heard positive feedback on how it’s working in many of those markets.

We believe all of this leads to a better, richer conversation. Thanks for reading.

The Star’s commenting policy:

The Kansas City Star and are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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