Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


August 1, 2013

Time has come to stand behind comments

This week, The Townsman begins a transition to follow suit with our daily paper, The Eagle-Tribune, in a change to our website’s comments feature.

Despite efforts to make the forum a place for the exchange of thoughtful remarks, opinion and information, far too many used the feature to spew vitriol, bigotry, obscenity, cheap shots and juvenile taunts, no matter how hard we worked to keep the conversation civil.

They didn’t take the hint when we deleted unacceptable comments or even when we blocked them by user name. They simply adopted new pseudonyms.

So a little more than five years after we launched the feature, we will no longer accept anonymous comments. The same rule will also apply to our other weekly newspapers, Derry News and Haverhill Gazette.

Those who wish to post on our websites via Disqus will be required to register under their true names. I’ll explain how at the bottom of this column.

Our sister papers, The Salem News and The Daily News of Newburyport, took this step a year ago.

I resisted this step at the time because I understand some people are unable to comment freely under their real names.

But it takes too much time to weed out the nasty remarks some people feel free to post under the cloak of anonymity. There are other venues those people can turn to.

I also happen to think the comments phenomenon may have run its course. Readers who want to communicate with us, and each other, now have other options they didn’t have five years ago — including Twitter, Facebook and our text alert service.

I hope those anonymous commenters who have something to contribute will rejoin the discussion under their own names. Others will still be able to send anonymous comments by email or snail mail.

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