Somewhere in the vast ether of internet commenting past, an anonymous reader who didn’t like my political coverage accused me more than once of being a secret porn star who pressured sources to join in a circle of kinky sexual behavior. As flattering as it was to be considered adult smut material—I guess porn really does have something for everyone—it would be fair to say that such discourse didn’t advance or illuminate the issues in the city down South I once covered.
And it would be a vast understatement to say that online comments haven’t improved. In fact, they have become progressively less constructive and acutely more vile. Where they once served to aid news organizations in developing or advancing stories—their anonymous nature shielding well-meaning whistleblowers from exposure—they have become more trouble than they’re worth. So in the very near future, City Paper is going the way of many other larger news organizations in requiring readers who comment on our site to do so using registered social media accounts.
As is true for many publications, the majority of the conversations about our pieces are already on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. And we get our share of reader phone calls, too.
For the website comments, the change accomplishes a couple of things: First, it will act as a first line of defense against annoying spam comments about penis enlargement and work-from-home schemes that we don’t have the resources to police and delete. And second, because readers will at a minimum have to identify themselves via a public social media login, they will be less likely to launch threats and ad hominem attacks against journalists and story subjects. We embrace differences of opinion and challenges, but have no obligation to allow any and all nameless imps to dishonestly upbraid either our journalists or those we cover in such prominent space adjacent to our reporting.
One note: Legacy commenters who are currently logged into the site will be able to continue posting comments under their existing login until logging out. We value reader contributions and feedback, but we want to make the process—and the product—more civil and responsible. This, we hope, will accomplish that.