New commenting policy

For five years, my policy on blog comments has been to err on the side of leniency. While I have banned those who wrote vulgar and obscene things, I have generally allowed people to allow their poor taste and manners to undermine the legitimacy of the point they were trying to make. But that approach, along with the occasional crackdown, has not resulted in the kind of dialogue I'd hoped for.

So things are changing.

With the move to the new blogging platform, I now have the ability to moderate comments before they are published rather than merely reacting afterward. And that is exactly what I intend to do. Starting today, I will personally approve every comment before it is published to this blog. If you have come here wondering why your comments aren't appearing as soon as you submit them, that is the reason why.

I will cull through the submitted comments as often as I can -- probably every hour or so on average during business hours, much less so on nights and weekends.

How will I decide which comments to approve? First and most important, it will not be based on whether I agree with the comment, or whether the commenter agrees with me. But here are some guidelines:

  • No insults, of any kind, toward any person. When I started blogging, I allowed latitude for people writing about public figures (e.g., the president or the governor) or myself. That has devolved into a generally low standard for addressing other commenters, and so it won't be allowed anymore. Punctuate an otherwise acceptable comment by calling someone else an "idiot" or a "moron," or talking about their mama, or whatever, and your comment won't be published.
  • No wandering off-topic. No more hijacking threads by getting people talking about something else. On the flip side, I intend to post more often so that readers aren't stuck with a stale thread.
  • I will not fact-check every comment submitted, as this would be an impossibly time-consuming task. But if I see a comment that I know to be false off the top of my head, I'm not going to publish it.

These guidelines are not exhaustive, and I reserve the right to publish or not publish a comment for other reasons.

But if you're still wondering why I'm doing this -- particularly if you're a frequent commenter who notices you're not getting published nearly as often now -- understand this. This blog belongs first to the AJC, and second to the readers -- all of them. And some of you, through your bickering, name-calling, caustic tone, bullying and generally uncivil participation have made this blog a lesser experience for readers who didn't bother, or wouldn't have dared, to comment here before. I have experimented with this before, by putting comments in moderation on nights and weekends, and most often the result was a more thoughtful, civil discussion.

And before anyone raises this objection: Yes, I completely expect the number of comments on my posts to plummet, at least at first. And yes, I have support from my superiors to do this. I frequently get 300, 400 or more comments on posts, but many of them aren't worth reading. I would rather have two thoughtful comments than 200 spiteful ones. And in time, I expect we'll get many more thoughtful comments here than we're accustomed to seeing.

If you have questions or comments, feel free to send them to me. I'll see them (even if others don't) if you post them here, or you can email me at the link in the upper-right corner.

Thanks for remaining a loyal reader.