One of the things that hasn’t changed about being a journalist is getting comments on your stories. Back when I was a rookie reporter in the early 1980s, our small-town news bureau was located in an old jewelry store about a block from the Okanogan County Jail. Inmates who had done their time were released about 8:30 a.m., and it wasn’t unusual for them to walk down the hill, pop into the office and deliver their story comments to me in person.
Nowadays, social media will save you the trip. You can just add comments to stories posted on our website using your Facebook account. We require people to post through Facebook because we want them to use their real name, and not a handle like “Mr. Happy.”
Believe it or not, the Facebook comments are often more uncivil than any of the comments that I used to get in person. (Maybe the fact that I stand 6 feet, 4 inches tall has something to do with it.) But we have policies in place to deal with those uncivil comments, and all of our editors are empowered to take down inappropriate posts.
The Columbian’s policy is pretty straightforward: Don’t make personal attacks on other people making comments. Keep your comments clean. Don’t spread unsubstantiated rumors. Don’t violate other peoples’ privacy. You can read all of the rules at Columbian.com/Guidelines.
Generally, our system works pretty well. We hide comments occasionally because someone wanders too far out of line. And despite our spam filter, we still get some of those “Make $1 million working at home!” messages that we have to zap. A few dozen people have made our “permanent ban” list after repeatedly violating our policies.