The Columbian today launched a new commenting system on its website to improve the reader experience and encourage community members to join the conversation. All readers who wish to comment on Columbian.com stories must now use their real name and post their remarks with a Facebook account.
Facebook comments will introduce to Columbian.com accountability similar to what’s required to publish Letters to the Editor in the print edition. The letters are concise and polite while also being challenging and opinionated — and they’re among the most valued and valuable features of the newspaper, said Scott Campbell, publisher of The Columbian.
“We’ve had more of an anything-goes mentality on the Web, where disrespect, rudeness and name-calling are the norm,” Campbell said. “This change, based on our research, is one of the best ways to elevate the discourse online.”
The move to a new commenting system comes as the result of feedback from readers and community members who have been reluctant to jump into the conversation online due to the quality of the comments. In an online survey of Columbian.com registered users conducted late last year, respondents called the comments on the site “offensive,” “misinformed,” “annoying,” “childish” and “completely unintelligent,” among other things.
The Columbian responded by introducing a system that holds commenters accountable by linking their comments to their Facebook account and, by extension, real name and face. Commenters can also choose to share their thoughts on local issues with their Facebook friends by posting comments to their walls. Other readers will see the comment on Columbian.com, but the commenter’s profile information will not be visible, depending on his or her Facebook privacy settings.
Those who wish to remain anonymous can continue using their existing Columbian.com profiles to comment in a separate forum of the news section. But those comments will no longer accompany articles.
The new feature reflects a larger adoption of social media tools in the newsroom. Reporters and editors are welcoming and responding to reader feedback, comments, tips and personal interaction with new professional Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
As the paper’s online audience has grown to more than 3 million page-views per month — the largest source of online news in Clark County — The Columbian has continually developed and changed its Web presence to complement its print products.
“People are connecting in all new ways, and we’ll be in the middle of that, providing community news,” Campbell said.
Please use this new system to comment on stories and connect with reporters, editors and other readers. Tell us what you think and what matters to you. We’re listening.
Libby Tucker: 360-735-4553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.