Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

August 1, 2013

Time has come to stand behind comments

Al White
The Andover Townsman

---- — 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.

We also welcome your anonymous news tips — you can send them via our website and mobile platforms.

Finally, I would encourage those with a point of view to have the courage of their convictions and write letters to the editor. Signed letters carry far more weight and have far more credibility than any anonymous comment.

OK, now for the instructions on how to register to post comments under your real name. Here are the two simplest ways:

Facebook option: If you already have a Disqus account as well as a Facebook account, log out of Disqus. You will then be given the option of signing back in via Facebook. Click on the circle with the Facebook logo and follow the instructions. If you do not have a Disqus account, you can create one using the Facebook function. Your first post will not appear until we activate your account.

Disqus option: If you already have a Disqus account but don’t use your own name now, go to our web page and open any story. Log in, click the gear symbol under “Leave a message” box, then click on “Edit settings” to change your user name to you actual name. If you don’t have a Disqus account, click on the “Leave a message” box, click on the blue Disqus logo just below, then click on “Need an account?” Finally email your name, email address and phone number to awhite@eagletribune.com. We will contact you when your account is enabled.

Thanks. We hope our new rules will turn the comments feature into what we originally intended: a forum that allows readers to express their thoughts and opinions.

Al White is executive editor of our daily newspaper The Eagle-Tribune.