Readers recently complained about the (mis)treatment of their comments below stories posted online.
They charged that their comments were being censored or deleted and that we were pushing our own agenda.
One reader even asked: “When did the Pocono Record hire Josef Stalin as its editor?”
Since my email reply to that reader is posted on our Facebook page, I thought I would share it here as well, with some added thoughts.
I’ll try to brief but that might be a fool’s errand.
A word about the reader comments. They are a no-win proposition no matter what we do.
First some background:
When I first got here not quite three years ago, they were the wild, wild, wild frontier with no law in the land.
Readers posted comments that were libelous, inflammatory, filled with cussing – you name it. It was a major time suck on my staff to try to keep an eye on all the stories and manually address each one.
A toooootal nightmare.
I declared a moratorium on the comments until we could figure out what to do. Enter registration. Readers had to give us some form of registration so we knew who were dealing with. That was somewhat helpful.
Then a short time later came the paywall and then a short time after that, human moderation.
That’s a mixed bag. The paywall had the effect of reducing the number of posts but the human moderation was a benefit because at least now we had people eyeballing these things.
Well….these things are moderated off-site, not by us. They are moderated and released only part of the day (stuff posted after 8 p.m. is not reviewed and cleared until the following morning) and then we deal with moderators who are overzealous because someone says something that is misunderstood and they take it down.
People often think we are deleting their comments when in fact, they have not yet been posted. When you enter a comment, you will see it on your screen but then it goes into a queue for approval. That delay can be several hours or even the next morning. That leads to people believing that their comment has been deleted when, in fact, it was never posted in the first place.
We deal with these kinds of complaints constantly and they are an irritant because these moderations are not under our control.
As for us having an “agenda” the only agenda I have as executive editor is to put out the best damn small community daily in Pa.
Period, end of story.
Let me amend that to add: To also get the damn paper out on time and to deliver the news as fresh as we can get it and as well written as time will allow.
I’d invite any reader interested to sit in on our page one meeting some day and see what it takes for a staff this small to get the paper out. As for political agendas, if you’ll allow me a British vulgarity, but we couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.
Who’s got time or energy to think big conspiratorial thoughts about political agendas?
From the moment we hit the computer keyboard, we work against the constraints of deadline, resources and the catapult of news thrown at us.
Those limitations mean we are perpetually doing triage and making last-minute decisions right up to the point that the copy desk wants to stab me with a pen. At the end of the day, it’s all about trying to put out a smart, informative paper.
We’ll do the best we can to explain how things work or don’t.
Gotta dash. On deadline. I’m up to my rump in alligators and they’re filling the swamp – fast.