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Keep a civil tongue in your head

Salon.com, which has a policy prohibiting “ad hominem attacks and abusive language, whether by anonymous posters, those with screen names or people signing their real names.” As of now, no more anonymous postings will be allowed on Salon’s site. You can read the explanation here.

The Sun’s blogs are set up so that comments by readers must be approved by the individual bloggers. Of the thousand or so comments sent to You Don’t Say, I have withheld fewer than half a dozen. Two were personal reflections on other people — not on me; I don’t weep over criticism. One included a link for a dating service; really, if you want to advertise on this blog, you should get in touch with baltimoresun.com and buy an ad. That’s what journalism is about.

And the remainder I’ve decided to share with you, for a reason to be disclosed subsequently.

For the post “Oh, stop whining,” from “Captain Obvious”:

this did nothing to me. you're complaining about the complainers. you've stabbed yourself with your own sword.

find solutions and stop sounding like you already know them.

newspapers will survive once the remove the print classifieds portion of the building and invest that money in REAL online classifieds solutions...not mediocre garbage that doesn't come close to CraigsList.

and while you're at, why dont you tell THE WIRE that your newsroom is just as angry and full of boobs as what you're referring to.

A subsequent comment the same day:

and stop filtering comments. just let them flow my friend, it's called the first amendment and you need to be a pioneer, not a greedy little child who found will take his ball and go home if he doesnt like the game.

You’ll notice that the first installment, while emphatic, is inchoate. And the second installment is just fatuous. The First Amendment liberty of expression for the press does not mean, and has never meant, that every submission to a publication must be published.

Compare those with this one, from some weeks back, from an alias, “Angelo Johnson”:

John smells irrelevancy when he smells himself these days. Then he has to get out the mothballs and write fluffy poofball stuff like this. Afterward, he stares up at the wispy clouds and thinks about how wonderful he is.

It’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that “Angelo Johnson” and “Captain Obvious” are the same person. Who else would know that a comment had been submitted that I declined to approve?

Now, to the point: Civil discourse does not mean that everyone agrees, or that disagreement cannot be expressed emphatically. It does mean showing common respect. My practice in reviewing comments has been to exclude those that were personally abusive to other people. I have allowed anonymous comments when the content was innocuous.

At this point, I too am disposed to shun anonymous posts. Comments to You Don’t Say should include a legitimate e-mail address, even if the writer uses a pseudonym — I’m not inclined to reveal anyone’s identity, especially since many journalists have bosses less indulgent than mine — but I’m disinclined to deal with ghosts.

If you feel that I have deprived you of something you value by withholding the three comments above, and if you prefer to see such stuff on this blog, please express yourself by comment or e-mail. What my readers think does count, and I prefer to offer you what you want.

But I won’t be able to act on your responses, if any, until next week. I’m off for the next few days because one of my daughter’s former roommates has the role of the Queen of the Night in a production of The Magic Flute at the Institute of Music in Cleveland. It’s my favorite opera, and I’m looking forward to the production. I’ll be back with you on Monday.

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 10:48 AM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

One of the features of this blog that I enjoy is the articulate exchanges by suspiciously intelligent people. I am surprised at the comments described as previously withheld.

Anonymity through use of pseudonyms is, in my humble opinion, an honorable practice. On this topic I immediately think of Publius and the Federalist Papers in the context of public exchanges of ideas.

The inchoate and incomprehensible have a home elsewhere in the ether and they are welcome to it. On this I am unanimous! NIMBY!

Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

There's one point about which I ant to be quite clear. I'll happily continue to authorize comments from contributors who use psuedonyms. I honor Mr. Hamilton's Publius as much as the next man, What I insist on is that the author of the comment supply a valid e-mail address.

The point is to spare readers of this blog the braying of jackasses.

"... whether by anonymous posters, those with screen names or people signing their real names.”

In most cases, there's no difference between "anonymous posters" and "those with screen names."

John has proven my long-ignored point that it's perfectly possible to moderate blog "comments." All it takes is time. And it's a waste of the reader's time to have to wade through "comments" such as this one attached to a Washington Post story about the Beijing Olympics:

"clyde2 wrote:
Nuke China! Then, WE"LL have something to celebrate"

I can't resist pointing out that no one has ever confused blog "comments" with the Federalist Papers.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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